NBA

Raining Buckets: The Greatest NBA Scoring Performances of The 2000s

Darren - February 2, 2024
NBA

Raining Buckets: The Greatest NBA Scoring Performances of The 2000s

Darren - February 2, 2024

NBA basketball is one of the most consistently entertaining sports in the world. It’s a high-scoring game where the greatest stars pull off incredible feats. A quick glance at the record books shows that Wilt Chamberlain is obviously the only player ever to score 100 points. But what about the best scoring performances of the modern era?

We broke down the greatest NBA scoring performances of the 2000s. It’s fascinating to see the players who dominated the scoring charts with miraculous displays over the years. Kobe Bryant appeared several times because he was arguably the most elite shooter of his era. Surprisingly enough, Lebron James only has a single appearance on this list. Check them out here.

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The Oregonian

Damian Lillard vs. Jazz

Lillard ties Kobe Bryant for the most appearances on this list of top scorers since 2000. The Trail Blazers star is one of the most electrifying shooters of the decade. He scored 60 against the Utah Jazz in 2023 and set the court ablaze. He put nine three-pointers past the Salt Lake City franchise in a devastating performance.

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Fox 16

The amazing aspect of this is that he made it look effortless. After the game, Lillard said, “I knew we needed to win so I came out with a mentality to attack and be aggressive, but it wasn’t like I just came out on fire. It wasn’t one of those games.” The crazy thing is that he apparently wasn’t even trying that hard (via ESPN).

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Reuters

Luka Doncic vs. Knicks

In 2022, Doncis delivered one of the best displays of his career. The Slovenian superstar is one of a clutch of elite European performers dominating the NBA right now. Dallas won the game in overtime after Doncic went supernova. He had an astounding final quarter that saw him intentionally miss a free throw before scoring on a rebound.

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The New York Times

Meanwhile, he became the only player with a 60-point, 20-rebound triple-double. He showed his qualities and proved that he was above everybody else on the court. The Mavericks held their nerve to edge past the Knicks in one of the most iconic games of the modern era (via NBA.com).

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Marca

Kyrie Irving vs. Magic

Another outstanding 2022 performance saw Irving explode for 60 against Orlando. It was a career-high display for the polarizing superstar who scored 41 points in the first half. Furthermore, it was arguably the highlight of his controversial tenure with the Brooklyn Nets.

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Sportskeeda

The Nets won the game 150-108 as they crushed the Magic. Irving said it was a good feeling but a team performance and everybody was delivering. This Nets team remains one of the biggest ‘what-ifs’ in NBA history because they should have achieved so much more (via The Athletic).

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Bleacher Report

Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Spurs

Minnesota’s Towns had a fantastic game against San Antonio in 2022. It was a new franchise record but he broke it again the following year. Nonetheless, this was one of the greatest scoring performances of the decade. The third quarter saw Towns at his most effective as he exploded for 32 points.

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Sports Enquirer

Teammates doused him in water after the game as the media interviewed him. This was also a lovely moment because he revealed a rare vulnerability. Towns said that nobody celebrated him before so he appreciated their love. It was a special occasion and one that the Timberwolves will always remember (via Fox Sports).

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Globe Staff

Jayson Tatum vs. Spurs

In 2021, San Antonio gave up another 60-point game. This time it was the Celtics’ Taytum who had one of the best scoring performances in franchise history. He tied Larry Bird’s longstanding 1985 record as he had a career-high display against the Spurs. Tatum’s efforts saw the Celtics squeak out an overtime victory.

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Boston Globe

He scored 20 of 37 as he demonstrated his scintillating form. The Celtics managed a ridiculous 32-point comeback as San Antonio capitulated. But they couldn’t keep Tatum down; he was the difference between the two teams. Sometimes one player is all it takes in the NBA (via USA Today Sports).

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New York Post

Bradley Beal vs. 76ers

Beal is one of those unfortunate players who score over 60 points but find themselves on the losing side. The Wizards star had the game of his life against the Sixers in 2021. It was a career-high for the three-time All-Star but it wasn’t enough to overcome Joel Embiid and his team (via Sportskeeda).

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USA TODAY Sports

He also became the second player in 50 years to have a 60/5/5 game. Beal equaled Gilbert Arena’s franchise record as he made history in one of Washington’s greatest scoring performances. Joel Embiid tweeted praise after the game as he said Beal was unstoppable. He might not have been as effusive if the Wizards won.

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The Score

James Harden vs. Hawks

There was a time when Harden was one of the NBA’s most effective players. Houston built their team around him because he was on a different level. ‘The Beard’ delivered one of his greatest scoring performances against Atlanta in 2019. Meanwhile, he became the third player in 25 seasons to score 60 points in three quarters.

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AP

Harden scored 60 from just 25 shots as he set a new NBA record. He was unbelievably efficient as the Hawks wilted in front of him. This was Atlanta’s 10th defeat on the bounce so that might affect how people remember this. Nonetheless, it’s rare for players to put so many points on the scoreboard (via ESPN).

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AP

Damian Lillard vs. Nets

Lillard had another brilliant scoring display in 2019 when he faced the Nets. The Portland star put 60 on the board but found himself in the unusual position of being on the losing side. This was a franchise record at the time but it was bittersweet because the Blazers didn’t win the game.

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CBS Sports

Brooklyn eked out a narrow 119-115 win as Lillard kept Portland within touching distance. Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyrie Irving had great games too with 34 and 33 points. However, nobody matched Lillard’s output as he showed his outstanding qualities. In the end, it wasn’t enough but he went down fighting (via KSL Sports).

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Sportsnet

Kemba Walker vs. 76ers

Here’s another player who scored 60 points in a game but didn’t win. Many people will think that Walker is the most random inclusion on this list but he had the performance of his life against Philadelphia in 2018. The lowly Hornets went toe to toe with the 76ers as they lost by three points.

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CNBC

Unfortunately, Walker’s heroics weren’t enough to get Charlotte over the line. Walker described his feelings after the game (via Sportsnet). He said: “I’m still proud, that’s an unbelievable thing to do right there. I’m just mad that we lost because I’m a competitor. It would have been even better with a win.”

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Bleacher Report

James Harden vs. Magic

Harden makes his second appearance on this list with another 60-point display. This one came against the Orlando Magic in 2018. The Rockets won this game comfortably as all of their best plays came through Harden. It was a historical achievement because it was the first 60-point triple-double in NBA history.

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CBS Sports

Another crazy aspect of this game was that the Rockets didn’t even have Chris Paul or Trevor Ariza available. This didn’t faze Harden who had one of the top scoring performances of his career. Harden also became the third player ever to put up 60 points against Orlando but the first in 13 years since Allen Iverson (via SBNation).

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AP News

Klay Thompson vs. Pacers

It’s easy to forget how good Thompson was at his peak before injuries took their toll. He was Stephen Curry’s equal as one-half of the “Splash Bros” and a key part of the Warriors’ success. One of Thompson’s greatest scoring performances came against Indiana in 2016 (via The Mercury News).

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L.A. Times

One of the most amazing aspects of his 60-point display was that he was on course for 100. Only Wilt Chamberlain has achieved this feat in the NBA but Thompson had an electric pace. He even sat out the entire fourth quarter as he opted against pushing for 70 or even 80 points.

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Sports Illustrated

Kobe Bryant vs. Jazz

The legendary “Black Mamba” had several unbelievable scoring performances. This 60-point game came against Utah in a 2016 clash. It’s memorable because it was his final NBA appearance so it was an incredible way for him to say goodbye. The Lakers got a classic 101-96 farewell victory for their superstar.

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Deseret News

Most people don’t get a fairytale ending but Bryant was always special. It was the sixth 60-point game of his iconic career but one of the greatest. Meanwhile, he was breaking records until the end because he achieved the most field goal attempts ever. Bryant was brilliant and the NBA misses him dearly (via Bleacher Report).

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Forbes

Kobe Bryant vs. Grizzlies

Here’s another legendary Bryant game that came against Memphis in 2007. It was a tight victory for the Grizzlies as the Lakers won by a mere two points. This was very impressive for another great reason. He scored over 50 points in three successive games as he went on a rampage.

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TMZ

The best players give credit to their teammates and that’s exactly what Bryant did (via Lakers Nation). He said: “I’m doing my part and other guys are stepping up and doing theirs as well. I just feel like guys are finding me. It’s not like I’m taking difficult shots outside of a couple of them, but I’m already in rhythm by the time I take those, so I feel pretty good.”

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Marca

Gilbert Arenas vs. Lakers

We’ve talked about Kobe Bryant a lot already but this time his team was on the receiving end of a 60-point display. Arenas had a career game against L.A. in 2006 as he fired his franchise to victory. He also set Washington records along the way and installed his place in history (via Basketball Network).

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Sporting News

Arenas dropped 16 points in overtime as he left the Lakers wondering what happened. It was unforgettable because nobody saw this coming. After the game, his main concern was getting all of the girls because he was on ‘Allen Iverson levels.’ He openly admitted that he could have been an all-time great if he had more dedication.

Allen Iverson
ESPN

Allen Iverson vs. Magic

Iverson’s career night came against the Orlando Magic in 2005. He entered Philly folklore as the second player after Wilt Chamberlain to achieve this impressive feat. This was one of the most dominant seasons of Iverson’s career as he averaged 30.7 points per game, a league-high record.

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Fansided

However, the Chamberlain comparison didn’t impress Iverson after the game. He said: “When you’re talking to me, and you’re mentioning Wilt Chamberlain in the same sentence with me, I don’t have words after that. I mean, what can I say? You mention somebody that’s six feet, 165 soaking wet, and somebody seven some feet (via Sporting News).”

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Sports Illustrated

Damian Lillard vs. Mavericks

The Mavericks fell foul of Lillard’s unique abilities in 2020 when he scored 61 points. It was an important game for Portland because it affected the seeding for the Play-In Tournament. Surgery limited Lillard to 29 games that season but they didn’t stop him from being brilliant (via Sports Illustrated).

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Bleacher Report

This also made him the second player in history after Wilt Chamberlain with three 60-point games in one season. Those displays came in quick succession as he had some of the NBA’s greatest scoring performances. Some fans said that new NBA viewers would think he’s the best if they just tuned in that year.

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The Mercury News

Damian Lillard vs. Warriors

Lillard also put up 61 points against the Golden State Warriors in January 2020. It was another magnificent display from the Oakland native as he outshone Steph Curry and co. Furthermore, it was a franchise record at the time as Lillard sealed his place as a Portland icon (via Mercury News).

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AP Photo

The player said that it was all about having the right mentality. He said: “It was just the mentality. We walked through the shootaround and did everything we needed to do. Even when I went home after the shootaround, it was just one of those days. When I came here, I wasn’t coming here to lose this game. It was as simple as that.”

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Sports Net

James Harden vs. Spurs

The Beard had the second 61-point game of his career when he faced San Antonio in 2019. He guided Houston to a 111-105 victory over their Texan rivals. Harden tied for the best performance of his life in this outstanding win. It was also the eighth time that season that he scored over 50 points.

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Bleacher Report

Even Chris Paul praised Harden after the game and everybody knows that they don’t like each other. Nonetheless, he deserved it because it was one of the most effective and efficient displays ever. His first 27 points came in the first quarter before he finished the game with guns blazing (via Sports Net).

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L.A. Times

James Harden vs. Knicks

This was a career game for Harden as he came up trumps against the New York Knicks. He made history in this game with one of Houston’s greatest NBA scoring performances. ‘The Beard’ set a franchise record with 61 points as he broke records across the board. He also scored 30 points in 21 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak ever.

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Sky Sports

This was Harden at the peak of his powers and it was a privilege to watch him in action. Only Wilt Chamberlain had longer scoring streaks than the Rockets’ star so he was keeping amazing company. The Knicks didn’t have an answer for the L.A. native as he made them suffer (via Sky Sports).

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Sports Illustrated

LeBron James vs. Bobcats

It will shock casual basketball fans to learn that King James only broke the 60-point barrier once in his career. He put 61 on the board in a 2014 clash with the Charlotte Bobcats. People might not understand this because he’s the NBA’s all-time top pointscorer. However, that’s down to his longevity and his consistency.

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NBA.com

This was a career night for the star as he inspired the Miami Heat to victory. He went 22 for 33 from the field as he set a new franchise record. Charlotte wilted in front of him as he demolished them with 37 points in the second half. This was a rare night for the Akron icon (via Sporting News).

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Sporting News

Kobe Byrant vs. Knicks

Bryant appears again on this list after he put 61 past the Knicks in 2009. The Black Mamba ran riot at Madison Square Garden as the Lakers ran out as winners again. This was one of the greatest NBA scoring performances because it was a brilliant display on the road. He made MSG his house and nobody doubted it (via NBA.com).

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Eurosport

This was a championship-winning team with some iconic players. Bryant was their superstar but he had elite support in Pau Gasol and a top coach in Phil Jackson. However, this was one of those special nights on the East Coast when fans witnessed greatness in a sporting cathedral.

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Essentially Sports

Shaquille O’Neal vs. Clippers

Shaq had a career night against the Clippers in the oldest entry on this list. This was one of the greatest NBA scoring performances as the Lakers defeated their city rivals. It was the 6th of March which was a special day for another reason. This was also the big man’s birthday and he capped it in style.

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Sportscasting

Meanwhile, he had another massive motivation. He wanted to prove himself to the Clippers’ assistant coach who was also a Lakers’ legend. We’re talking about the iconic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. O’Neal explicitly revealed that this was what drove him to the highest-scoring night of his life (via Essentially Sports).

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AP

Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Hornets

Towns had one of the greatest scoring performances since 2000 when he put 62 past the Hornets in 2024. This was a great season with some outstanding shooting displays. However, he suffered the rare misfortune of being on the losing side. Only five players have found themselves in this position after scoring 60.

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Sports grid

The Hornets found themselves facing an 18-point deficit but they rebounded. They ruined Towns’ night after he broke a franchise record and etched himself into the history books. His moment deserved a greater legacy but it will never get the respect it deserves now (via Bleacher Report).

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NBA.com

Stephen Curry vs. Trail Blazers

Everybody knows that Curry is one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. However, he shares an unusual distinction with LeBron James in that he’s only scored more than 60 points once in his career. That game was against Portland in 2021 as everything that he touched turned to gold.

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The New York Times

He went 18-for-19 from free throws and 18-for-31 from the field in a clinical display. This was a big performance because the Warriors were without Klay Thompson. They needed Curry to step up and prove that he was still the man. He did so in style as the Blazers fell before at their hands (via NBA.com).

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YouTube

Carmelo Anthony vs. Bobcats

Most people agree that Anthony’s best displays came when he played for the Denver Nuggets. He couldn’t resist the allure of being part of his hometown franchise, the Knicks. They witnessed his career night against the Bobcats under MSG’s bright lights.

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The Boston Globe

This 2014 game came a day after he received confirmation of his place in the All-Star team. Maybe this inspired him because he went on a rampage as he set a new Knicks record. Anthony nearly scored more than the entire Bobcats roster. Ultimately, this was a great day for New York basketball (via Basket USA).

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Barstool Sports

Kobe Bryant vs. Mavericks

Bryant had some of the greatest NBA scoring performances ever. A strong faction of fans regard this as his best night because it happened so quickly. They played Dallas, one of the best teams in 2005, who made the Finals. Bryant exploded for 62 points in three quarters as he put them to the sword.

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NBA.com

He didn’t set foot on the hardwood in the fourth quarter so we can only guess what he would have done. There’s no overstating his achievement in this game because the Mavericks were a brilliant team. This was an astounding individual display and arguably the most clinical of his life (via Lakers Nation).

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AP

Tracy McGrady vs. Wizards

Every generation has one or two players like McGrady. We know they have the talent to be the best in the league but injuries or weak rosters rob them at key moments. Nonetheless, McGrady was a two-time NBA scoring champion and gave his teams some fantastic moments.

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The Sports Rush

In 2004, he had the highest-scoring game of his career against Washington. T-Mac overshadowed Gilbert Arenas’ 40 points with his devastating display. There’s no overstating his value to his teams and it’s a shame that he never got the ring he deserved. Fortunately, he still earned his place in the Hall of Fame (via Fansided).

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AP

Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Pacers

Two stories emerged from one of the most iconic games of “The Greek Freak’s” career. Giannis laid an incredible 64 points on Indiana in this 2023 clash. He was an unstoppable force because nobody could guard him. But then there was another crazy sequence after the game that left the Indiana GM with bruised ribs (via CBS Sports).

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The Hill

Giannis justifiably wanted the game ball but it was nowhere to be seen. Indian claimed the ball because one of their rookies scored his first points that day. But Giannis and every sane human being knew that his franchise record was more important. A fracas broke out as he attempted to burst into the Packers locker room.

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CNBC

Kobe Bryant vs. Trail Blazers

This was the second-highest-scoring performance of Bryant’s career as he put Portland to the sword. He had an exceptional first-half display but it wasn’t enough to create distance between the teams. The Blazers led by eight points with two minutes left in the game before Bryant sent the Lakers to overtime.

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L.A. Times

It was an exciting clash as Bryant delivered one of his most clutch displays. He was perfect in overtime as he showed up for his team and made every shot count. Meanwhile, he helped the Lakers snap a seven-game losing streak as they reestablished their mojo. Some moments can change seasons and this was one of them (via SBNation).

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CNN

Joel Embiid vs. Spurs

Reigning MVP Embiid proved that he remained a force in 2024 with this unbelievable game. He had one of the greatest NBA scoring performances ever. Furthermore, he became one of the rare modern athletes to break a Wilt Chamberlain record. His 70 points overtook Chamberlain’s 68 in the Sixers’ record books.

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L.A. Times

Meanwhile, he became the ninth player in NBA history to pass the 70-point barrier. Embiid remained classy to the end as he praised his teammates. He said: “Feels good, credit to all these guys. Extremely unselfish people, like I said unselfish teammates. They just got me the ball and I was hot. They made sure that they put me in the best position (via The Athletic)“.

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AZCentral

Devin Booker vs. Celtics

Here’s another of the best NBA scoring performances since 2000. Booker was electric against the Celtics as he scored 70 points. However, his brilliance was in vain because it wasn’t enough to beat an outstanding Boston team. This is the best individual display by a losing player on this list (via AZCentral).

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The Boston Globe

After the game, reporters compared him to some legends like Kobe Bryant and Chamberlain. However, it was a bittersweet moment for Booker because his efforts didn’t deliver a win. He said: “It means a lot to be mentioned with those names. I’m going to keep working, stay humble, and try to be mentioned with those names in another way, also.”

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AP

Damian Lillard vs. Rockets

Here’s the greatest game of Lillard’s career as he put 71 past the Rockets. He made history for several reasons as he became the first over 30 player to achieve the feat. It was also the second 70-point game in two months after Donavon Mitchell’s heroics. Lillard set Portland’s new single-game franchise record (via Sportico).

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CNN

Meanwhile, the Blazers claimed a 131-114 victory as they eased past Houston. Lillard achieved his magnificent feat with the second-fewest shot attempts ever. He was a perfect 14-14 from free shots while he scored 13 of 22 three-point attempts. Lillard was a majestic force and had everyone in the crowd on their feet.

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AP

Donavon Mitchell vs. Bulls

Mitchell’s 71 points in January 2023 took the gloss off Damian Lillard’s achievement later that year. He set a new Cavs record in one of the most iconic NBA scoring performances ever. Furthermore, he passed the 70-point mark with the fewest shot attempts in history (via ESPN).

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Bleacher Report

The former Jazz star couldn’t believe what he did and loved the comparisons to Wilt Chamberlain. After the game, he said: “To be there in the record book with guys like Wilt is truly humbling. I always believed I could be one of the best players in the league. I’m speechless and blessed to be in the company of that greatness.”

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Los Angeles Times

Luka Doncic vs. Hawks

Doncic had a career night against Atlanta in January 2024 as he scored an astounding 73 points. It was the highest total in the NBA since Kobe Bryant in 2006. Meanwhile, it was also the fourth-most points ever as he set a new franchise record. There was no stopping Doncic as he tore the Hawks apart (via Sports Illustrated).

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Reuters

Doncic almost played for the Hawks so it’s amazing how things turn out. Each of his points was crucial as Dallas eked out a 148-143 win. The five-time All-Star showed why he is a perennial MVP contender and one of Europe’s best basketball exports. This was a devastating night and one Mavs fans will always remember.

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L.A. Times

Kobe Bryant vs. Raptors

Finally, let’s look at the highest-scoring game since 2000. Bryant dropped an astounding 81 points on the Toronto Raptors in 2006. He scored 21 of 33 two-point attempts while he completed 18 of 20 free throws. ‘The Black Mamba’ also grabbed seven three-pointers as he ran riot.

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Marca

The astounding aspect is that it could have been more. Phil Jackson pulled him from the game because he allegedly wanted to preserve Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point record. It’s a shame because every generation has new stars who change the sport. Nonetheless, this was an all-time great achievement as he shattered the Lakers’ single-game record (via USA Today).

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