1. 40- and 50-point games continue to climb at historic rate
Last Wednesday, Damian Lillard posted the most efficient 60-point game in league history as he shot 21-of-29 from the field, including 9-of-15 from 3-point range and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line for a true shooting percentage of 89.8%.
Tonight was the 4th 60+ point game of Damian Lillard's career. Only four other players in NBA History have 4 or more.
Wilt Chamberlain has 32.
"We ain't catching Wilt." pic.twitter.com/KMNXb79bOZ
— NBA (@NBA) January 26, 2023
In addition to being Dame’s fourth career 60-point game, it was also the third of the 2022-23 NBA season as Lillard’s efficient 60 joined Donovan Mitchell’s 71 and Luka Doncic’s 60-point, 21-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. Those three 60-point games surpass last season’s total of two, with nearly 40% of the season still to play.
2022-23: 755 games played (61.4% of season)
- 117 40+ point games
- 18 50+ point games
- 3 60+ point games
2021-22: 1230 games played
- 119 40+ point games
- 19 50+ point games
- 2 60+ point games
So far this season, there has been an average of 7.8 40-point games recorded each week, which means last season’s total of 119 40-point games will likely be surpassed. The league is also averaging 1.2 50-point games per week, so last season’s total of 19 should be tied, and possibly topped, this week as well.
In his Week 12 Power Rankings Notebook, John Schuhmann broke down this season’s historic pace of 40-point games, noting that the then total of 89 40-point games was already the 11th highest in league history. Here’s a quick update: this season is currently fifth and should reach top three before Week 16 closes.
|2022-23||117||755||15%||7||Antetokounmpo, Doncic (10)||41|
- 40PG = 40-point games from an individual player
- Total GP = Total games played in the league
- % = 40PG / Total GP
- Rank = % rank among the 77 NBA seasons
- Players = Number of individual players to reach the mark
When looking at 50-point games, this season currently ranks sixth and is on pace to see the most 50-point games since the Wilt Chamberlain era of the early 1960s.
A striking difference between now and then is the number of different players that have posted 50-point games. Last season saw a record 14 different players reach 50 points and this season’s total is already up to 12 with plenty of games still left to play.
Below is a look at the top 10 seasons in 50-point games, and all three of the seasons from the 1960s were led by Chamberlain (by a huge margin). Meanwhile, the seven seasons from this century all have a different leader: Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and this season’s leader Doncic.
2. Milestone Watch: Don’t forget about LeBron’s assists
LeBron James enters this week needing just 117 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. This pursuit of one of the NBA’s most hallowed records – a mark that has stood since Kareem retired in 1989 – has garnered plenty of much-deserved attention and discussion.
But that is not the only leaderboard he is climbing this season. Keeping with LeBron’s preference to not be labeled a scorer, we can’t forget that LeBron is about to climb into fourth place on the NBA’s all-time assist list.
LeBron enters this week needing eight assists to pass Mark Jackson (10,354) for fifth place and nine assists to pass Steve Nash (10,355) for fourth place in career dimes. With a season average of 7.1 assists per game, LeBron should need just two games to reach fourth place. While LeBron has been ruled out of Monday’s game in Brooklyn, the Lakers have three more games on the schedule this week – Tuesday at New York, Thursday at Indiana and Saturday at New Orleans – to give him ample opportunity to pass these two Hall of Famers.
The list below shows the 19 players in league history that have recorded at least 7,000 career assists. Of those 19 players, only LeBron (2nd) and Oscar Robertson (13th) also rank in the top 25 in career scoring. Russell Westbrook (28th in scoring, 11th in assists) and Chris Paul (38th in scoring, 3rd in assists) are the only other active players with at least 7,000 career assists.
|PLAYER||AST||AST RANK||PTS||PTS RANK|
More milestones to watch this week
• Russell Westbrook needs 5 assists to pass Gary Payton (8,966) to become 10th all-time in assists
• Chris Paul needs 4 steals to become the 4th player to reach 2,500 for his career, needs 19 to pass Michael Jordan (2,514) for 3rd place all-time
• Stephen Curry needs 7 field goals to pass Wilt Chamberlain (7,216) for the most in Warriors’ franchise history
3. All-Star reserves revealed on Thursday
Last Thursday, the captains and starters for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City were announced, with LeBron James serving as a team captain for the sixth straight year and Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the captain’s seat for the first time since 2020 and the third time overall. Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis in both the 2019 and 2020 All-Star Games.
With the starters and captains set, now it’s time for reserves to be announced, as voted on by the league’s coaches. There will be seven reserves selected from each conference – two guards, three frontcourt players and two wild card selections regardless of position.
The announcement will be made Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on TNT as part of NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax, prior to their doubleheader featuring Memphis at Cleveland followed by LA Clippers at Milwaukee.
4. National TV Spotlight: Four must-see games
Tuesday: Los Angeles at New York, 7:30 p.m. ET, TNT
While the Lakers have announced that both LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be out Monday in Brooklyn, they should be back in action Tuesday at the Garden as the Lakers visit the Knicks. LeBron’s pursuit of the all-time scoring title will resume in a building that has seen him drop a pair of 50-point games: 50 in 2008 and 52 in 2009, both with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wednesday: Brooklyn at Boston, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Brooklyn is beginning to find its way without Kevin Durant, who has been out since Jan. 8 with an MCL sprain. The Nets lost their first four games without Durant, averaging just 102.5 points per game. Since then, the Nets have gone 3-2 and averaged 122.6 points per game. They will get their toughest test without KD as they visit the East-leading Celtics (36-15).
Thursday: LA Clippers at Milwaukee, 10 p.m. ET, TNT
The Clippers enter Week 16 having won five of their last six games (they had a five-game win streak snapped on Sunday in Cleveland) to climb to fourth place in the Western Conference. The Bucks enter the week riding a four-game win streak – including a win over New Orleans on Sunday that saw Giannis drop 50 points – and rank third in the East, just 2.5 games of Boston.
Saturday: Dallas at Golden State, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC
It’s a primetime matchup between the starting guards representing the Western Conference at All-Star next month: Dallas’ Luka Doncic and Golden State’s Stephen Curry. In their first meeting this season, Luka (41 points) outdueled Curry (32 points) to lead the Mavericks to a 116-113 win. Entering this week, the No. 6 Warriors and No. 7 Mavericks straddle the play-in line in a tightly packed Western Conference, where seeds 4 through 13 are currently separated by just two games in the loss column.
5. League Pass Games to Watch: Four games to circle
Monday: Orlando at Philadelphia, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass
Philadelphia fans have their football team headed to the Super Bowl and their basketball team riding a league-high seven-game winning streak. The Sixers open this week with a two-game set against Orlando, a team they have beaten 10 times in a row; the Magic’s last win came on Dec. 17, 2019. Can the Sixers keep their overall win streak and their Magic win streak going this week?
Wednesday: Portland at Memphis, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass
It’s Damian Lillard vs. Ja Morant in a matchup of two guards from the Western Conference that should hear their names called during Thursday’s announcement of the All-Star reserves. Desmond Bane and Morant combined for 49 points to lead Memphis to a 111-106 win over the Lillard-less Blazers in Portland on Nov. 2 in their first meeting of the season.
Thursday: Golden State at Denver, 9 p.m. ET, League Pass
Last season, the Warriors eliminated the Nuggets from the first round of the playoffs in five games on their way to not only winning the Western Conference but earning their fourth NBA title in eight seasons. This season, the Nuggets lead the Western Conference, while the Warriors enter the week in sixth place. Denver won the first meeting of the season against Golden State – 128-123 on Oct. 21 in the second game of the season for both teams as Nikola Jokic’s triple-double was enough to offset Stephen Curry’s game-high 34 points.
Saturday: Miami at Milwaukee, 8 p.m. ET, League Pass
It is a matchup of the Eastern Conference champions from 2020 (Miami) and 2021 (Milwaukee, who also went on to win the NBA Finals). The Heat lead the season series 2-0 as they swept a two-game set two weeks ago against a short-handed Bucks squad without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Both are back, with Giannis coming off a 50-point game and Middleton working his way back after missing 39 games this season. The Bucks are 4-0 since Middleton returned on Jan. 23, with the former All-Star forward on a minutes restriction.