Every Monday we will tell you what you need to know heading into a new week of NBA action.
1. Who will be the first to score 60+ points?
Sunday saw the first two 50-plus point games of the 2022-23 season. It began with Cleveland’s Darius Garland, who scored 27 of his career-best 51 points in the fourth quarter to lead a Cavaliers rally against Minnesota that ultimately came up short.
Garland held the 2022-23 single-game scoring high for only about an hour before Joel Embiid put together a game for the ages as he finished with 59 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocks in Philadelphia’s win against Utah. No player in NBA history had reached each of those marks in a single game before Embiid on Sunday against the Jazz.
Darius Garland (27 Q4 PTS) and Joel Embiid (26 Q4 PTS) both ERUPTED in the 4th quarter on the way to their respective 50-pieces!
Garland: 51 PTS, 6 AST, 2 STL, 10 3PM
Embiid: 59 PTS, 11 REB, 8 AST, 7 BLK
The TOP 2 scoring performances of the season so far 🔥 pic.twitter.com/eGpVV55Nxz
— NBA (@NBA) November 14, 2022
Through the first four weeks of play, we’ve now seen 22 40-plus point performances and two 50-plus point games. It begs the question, then: which player will be the first to reach 60 this season?
There have been 78 60-plus point games in league history (32 of which belong to Wilt Chamberlain alone), including two last season that came in the span of 24 hours beginning with Karl-Anthony Towns on March 14 (Minnesota at San Antonio), followed by Kyrie Irving on March 15 (Brooklyn at Orlando).
The most logical place to begin our search for the first 60-point game of the season is to look at the 10 active players that have a 60+ point performance on their resume already — beginning with the two players that have hit at least 60 points multiple times.
- James Harden (4): 60 pts vs. Atlanta 11/30/19; 61 pts vs. San Antonio 3/22/19; 61 pts at New York 1/23/19; 60 pts vs. Orlando 1/30/18
- Damian Lillard (3): 61 pts at Dallas 8/11/20; 61 pts vs. Golden State 1/20/20; 60 pts vs. Brooklyn 11/8/19
- Kyrie Irving: 60 pts at Orlando 3/15/22
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 60 pts at San Antonio 3/14/22
- Jayson Tatum: 60 pts vs. San Antonio 4/30/21
- Bradley Beal: 60 pts at Philadelphia 1/6/21
- Stephen Curry: 62 pts vs. Portland 1/3/21
- Devin Booker: 70 pts at Boston 3/24/17
- Klay Thompson: 60 pts vs. Indiana 12/5/16
- LeBron James: 61 pts vs. Charlotte 3/3/14
Of the 15 60-plus point games by active players, three came against the San Antonio Spurs, while two came against the Orlando Magic and no other team allowed more than one.
2. The Heat Check: The hottest teams entering the week
The Boston Celtics enter Week 5 riding a six-game win streak, the longest active run in the league. They are 10-3 and are just 1/2 game behind the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, a remarkable feat considering the offseason turmoil Boston faced. The Celtics have started the season strong, essentially picking up where they left off after making the NBA Finals in 2022.
Boston’s offense has been on another level through the first four weeks of the season. The Celtics’ 119.4 offensive rating is first in the NBA, ranking 3.5 points per 100 possessions than the No. 2-ranked Denver Nuggets (115.9) — a greater margin than the 2.8 points per 100 possessions that separates No. 2 from No. 11 in that category.
Boston will look to extend its win streak this week with matchups against Oklahoma City, Atlanta and New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the second-longest win streak in the league belongs to the Washington Wizards. They enter Week 5 having won four in a row, including wins over Dallas, Utah and Memphis, which all rank in the top six of the Western Conference.
Kristaps Porzingis (25 ppg, 8 rpg) and Kyle Kuzma (22 ppg, 9 rpg) have led the Washington offense, while the Wizards’ defense has allowed just 102.3 points per game during the win streak. The 8-6 Wizards enter the week in fifth place in the East and will look to extend their streak against Oklahoma City, Miami and Charlotte as they wrap up a six-game homestand this week.
After each Kings win this season, a purple beam of light is sent toward the skies above Sacramento from the roof of the Golden 1 Center. The beam has been lit for three straight games as the Kings have the longest active win streak in the Western Conference entering Week 5.
Sunday’s win against Golden State moved the Kings to 6-6 as they recovered from their 0-4 start to 2022-23. Nine of Sacramento’s first 12 games of the season have featured clutch time and the Kings have turned to De’Aaron Fox to deliver. Fox leads all players with 18 clutch baskets (five more than any other player in the league) and 42 clutch points through the first four weeks of play. Can Fox and the Kings continue to come through in close games?
The Kings will look to keep the beam lit in Week 5 with home games against Brooklyn (in a rare Kings appearance on TNT), San Antonio and Detroit.
3. National TV spotlight: Three must-see matchups
This is a matchup of two of the most exciting young players in the game today: New Orleans’ Zion Williamson and Memphis’ Ja Morant – the top two picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. These two players have met four times in their NBA careers, with Zion holding a 4-0 lead in head-to-head matchups with Morant.
The last two teams to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals – the Suns in 2021 and the Warriors in 2022 – meet for the second time this season. The first meeting saw the Suns hand the defending champs their biggest loss of the season (29 points) on Oct. 25. The Warriors enter the Week in 13th place in the West at 5-8 through 13 games, while the Suns are in third place at 8-4.
Last season, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished 1-2 in the scoring title race and 2-3 in the MVP race. Through the first four weeks of play, it appears both players will be in those races once again: Embiid ranks fourth in scoring (32.3 ppg) following his monster game on Sunday, while Giannis ranks fifth (31.8 ppg). Giannis and the Bucks got the better of Embiid and Sixers on Oct. 20; who will take Round 2?
4. League Pass games to watch
The Cavaliers got off to an 8-1 start to the season, but have since lost four in a row, with three of the four losses coming by five points or less. Cleveland will look to snap that four-game skid against the top team in the Eastern Conference: the 10-2 Milwaukee Bucks, a team that has lost two of it’s last three games entering the week.
There are no nationally televised games on Thursday, so all three games on the NBA calendar can be found only on League Pass, including this matchup between Brooklyn and Portland. The Blazers enter Week 5 with the best record in the Western Conference at 9-4, while Brooklyn sits 12th in the East at 6-8.
Similar to Thursday, there are no nationally televised games set for Sunday, so the full eight-game slate of NBA action will only be available on League Pass, including this matchup of two of the top international stars in the league today: the reigning two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic and the NBA scoring leader entering Week 5, Luka Doncic. There have been 14 triple-doubles recorded across the NBA through the first four weeks of play, Jokic and Doncic are tied for the lead with three apiece.
5. NBA Quiz: Which player has the highest single-season usage rate?
Through the first four weeks of the season, Dallas’ Luka Doncic ranks fifth in the NBA in minutes played (career-high 36.9 mpg) and first in usage rate (career-high 38%) as nearly 40% of Dallas’ possessions end in a Doncic field goal attempt, free throw attempt or turnover while he’s on the court.
The Mavericks are 7-5 through their first 12 games, but should there be concern about Luka maintaining this load of minutes and usage over the course of the full 82-game regular season?
Doncic has been among the league leaders in usage rate since his second season in the NBA as he’s been north of 35% each season: 35.5% in 2019-20, 35.0% in 2020-21 and 36.8% in 2021-22. This season, he’s at 38.0% and in position to challenge the top two usage rates in league history. Those belong to:
Russell Westbrook: 40.2% in 2016-17 — his MVP season with Oklahoma City when he broke Oscar Robertson’s single-season triple-double record and averaged a triple-double for the first time in his career)
James Harden: 39.6% in 2018-19 — when he averaged 36.1 ppg with Houston, the seventh highest scoring average in NBA history, joining Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain (5x) as the only players to average over 36 points in a season.