The Evolution of 50+ Point Games In the NBA
Throughout history, we have all witnessed legendary scoring outputs. Few of us will ever forget the legendary 55-point game that Michael Jordan had against the Knicks in 1995. This occurred in his 5th back with the Chicago Bulls after his two-year retirement back in the mid-90s. One can consider it his unofficial "I'm back" game.
Few of us will forget the legendary 81-point performance by the late Kobe Bryant against the Toronto Raptors on January 22nd, 2006, or his 62-point performance by Kobe Bryant against the Dallas Mavericks in only three-quarters of play in 2005.
The ultimate scoring performance is Wilt Chamberlain's performance against the New York Knicks on March 2nd, 1962. It used to be a special occasion when a 50+ point game took place. Now, a 50+ point game is well on its way to becoming the norm.
There have been three 50+ scoring outputs in the NBA so far in the new year. On January 2nd, Klay Thompson exploded with 54 points in a 143-141 OT win over the Golden State Warriors. On that same night, Donovan Mitchell had the top-scoring performance of the NBA season. He had an astounding 71 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls. The next day, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 55 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists over the Washington Wizards.
50+ point scoring performances have drastically increased in recent years. From 2014 to 2018, the NBA's number of 50+ point scoring performances increased from 5 to 16. Both the 2019 and 2020 seasons had 15 occurrences of 50+ point scoring performances. There were eighteen 50+ point scoring performances in 2021 and seventeen 50+ point performances in 2022.
The 2022-2023 NBA Season has yet to reach the All-Star break. Yet, there have been fourteen 50-point performances so far. The frequency of time between 50-point games has also dramatically increased in recent years. In 2014, there was a 50+ point scoring performance on one every 205 games. Currently, there is a 50+ point scoring output every 40 games. In other words, a 50+ point scoring performance in the NBA occurs 5x faster than it did seven years ago.
Major factors behind the increasing number of 50+ point occurrences have been the sharp increase in 2-point FG percentages this season as well as the sharp decline in 3-point FG percentages. From 2014-2022, NBA players who have scored 50+ points per game have an average 2-point FG percentage of less than 50% as well as an average 3-point FG percentage of more than 30%.
This season, the 2-point FG percentage among 50-point scorers has increased to 53%, while the 3-point FG percentage among 50-point scorers decreased to 26%.
It seems like the decision to go for easier baskets is the order of the day amongst 50-point scorers. Don't be surprised if this trend of 50+ point scoring continues to grow this season and beyond.
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