The Golden State Warriors clinched their fourth title in eight seasons on Thursday, June 16, to bring the NBA’s 75th anniversary season to a close. Before we begin to look toward the future with Thursday’s NBA Draft, the upcoming free agency frenzy and Summer League play, let’s take a look back at some of the top performances from the 2021-22 season.
Here are 20 of the top stat lines from last season – 10 from the regular season and 10 from the postseason. These stat lines are presented in no ranked order, but rather grouped by accomplishment or playoff round, and we have limited each player to one appearance on each list.
The 2021-22 regular season saw two 60-point games and they came in the span of 24 hours. It was the first time that had happened in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain did it by himself back in 1962.
Karl Anthony-Towns: March 14, 2022; Minnesota at San Antonio
On February 20, Karl-Anthony Towns defied the odds to become the first center to win the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest at NBA All-Star in Cleveland. Less than a month later, Towns knocked down a career-best seven 3-pointers on his way to a career-high and franchise-record 60 points in a 149-139 win over San Antonio. And he did more than score, he also grabbed 17 rebounds to become the first player with 60 points and 17 boards in a game since Shaquille O’Neal had 61 and 23 on March 6, 2000.
Kyrie Irving: March 15, 2022; Brooklyn at Orlando
Playing in only his 19th game of the season, Kyrie Irving wasted no time in getting buckets against the Magic, scoring 41 points in the first half – the most points in the opening half since Kobe Bryant’s 42 points against Washington on March 28, 2003. In total, Irving needed only 35 minutes to reach his career-high and Nets franchise-record 60 points – the fifth-fewest minutes in a 60-point game since 1983-84. After Irving’s game, Towns had to give a shout-out to a fellow player raised in New Jersey.
Jersey putting up numbers.
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) March 16, 2022
The 2021-22 regular season saw a total of 19 50+ point games by 14 different players – breaking the previous record of 13 players set in the 2018-19 season. Nine of those 19 50-point games came in the month of March, the most in a single month since December 1962. While seven different players reached 50 points in March 2022, there were only two that hit the mark in December 1962 – Wilt (6 times) and Elgin Baylor (3 times).
With only 10 spots on this list, we can’t include all 19 of these 50+ point performances, but there are a few that must be mentioned.
LeBron James: March 5, 2022; Los Angeles vs. Golden State
LeBron posted two 50+ point games in his 19th NBA season. This 56-point performance not only marked a season-high, it made a bit of history as well. At 37 years and 65 days old, LeBron became the fourth-oldest player to ever score 50 points in an NBA game and became the oldest player to record 50+ points and 10+ rebounds in a game.
Trae Young: January 3, 2022; Atlanta at Portland
This is one of the few stat lines highlighted on this list that came in a loss, but Young’s combination of 56 points and 14 assists was something the league had never seen before as his 14 dimes were the most ever in a 55+ point game. The closest anyone has come to it was James Harden in December 2016 when he finished with 53 points and 14 assists. Between the points he scored (56) and the points he created with his assists (30), Young was responsible for 86 (65.6%) of Atlanta’s 131 points on the night.
Kevin Durant: April 2, 2022; Brooklyn at Atlanta
Durant is the only player that had three 50+ point games to choose from for this list. This game saw Durant score a career-best 55 points as he put on an incredible shooting display – connecting on 19-of-28 (67.9%) of his shots from the field and 8-of-10 (80%) from beyond the arc. Durant (and Young’s game above) were the only two games this season in which a player scored at least 55 points on fewer than 30 shots – and both came in losses.
Ja Morant: February 28, 2022; Memphis vs. San Antonio
Ja Morant not only scored a career-high 52 points against the Spurs, he did so in spectacular fashion as was his signature throughout his breakout season. This game featured Morant’s massive dunk over 7-footer Jakob Poeltl as well as an amazing buzzer-beating jumper to close the half off a full-court pass from Steven Adams. Morant became the first player to make 22 field goals in a game since LeBron James in 2017.
Jayson Tatum: January 23, 2022; Boston at Washington
Picking between Tatum’s two 50-point games was a difficult choice. If we’re looking at overall significance and stepping up to a challenge, his 54-point performance against Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets would get the nod, but if we’re looking strictly at stat lines, it’s hard to argue against this brilliant game in Washington as Tatum dropped 51 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in just 33 minutes on court as the Celtics crushed the Wizards by 29 points.
Joel Embiid: January 19, 2022; Philadelphia vs. Orlando
Embiid needed just 27:03 of court time to rack up 50 points, 12 boards and three blocks in Philadelphia’s win over Orlando. It is the fewest minutes played in a 50-point, 10-rebound game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) according to Elias. It is also the second-fewest minutes played in a 50-point game, just 30 seconds more than Klay Thompson’s 52-point game in 26:33 in 2018.
Stephen Curry: November 8, 2021; Golden State vs. Atlanta
In 960 career games between the regular season and playoffs, Stephen Curry has 10 games with at least 50 points and 139 games with at least 10 assists. This was the first time in his career that he did both in the same night. Curry finished with 50 points scored and 25 points created with his assists as he accounted for 75 of Golden State’s 127 points (59.1%) in a win over the Hawks.
Nikola Jokic: January 16, 2022; Denver vs. LA Clippers
When it comes to picking a signature game from league MVP Nikola Jokic’s 2021-22 season, we had two 45+ point triple-double performances in overtime wins to choose from. On March 6 against New Orleans, Jokic scored 30 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as he carried the Nuggets to the win. But for this list we went with his 49-point game against the Clippers, which showcased his most impressive skill – his passing – at the most critical time. Jokic’s secured his 10th assist to make his triple-double with 1.7 seconds left in the extra period as he found Aaron Gordon with a cross-court pass out of a double team for the game-winner.
Kyrie Irving: April 17, 2022: Brooklyn at Boston, East First Round, Game 1
This game will be remembered most for Jayson Tatum’s spinning game-winning layup at the buzzer, but the reason the Celtics needed that clutch bucket to secure the win is because Kyrie Irving was unstoppable in the fourth quarter. Irving scored 18 of his game-high 39 points in the fourth as he shot 6-of-10 from both 2-point and 3-point range, made all nine of his free throws and added five rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block in 42 minutes.
Brandon Ingram: April 19, 2022; New Orleans at Phoenix; West First Round, Game 2
This was the game that made everyone do a double-take and say can the eighth-seeded Pelicans threaten the top-seeded Suns in the opening round. Ingram had a brilliant all-around game as he led New Orleans to a 125-114 win to even the series at 1-1 and steal home court from the team that finished with a league-high and franchise-record 64 wins in the regular season.
DeMar DeRozan: April 20, 2022: Chicago at Milwaukee; East First Round, Game 2
DeMar DeRozan scored a playoff career-high 41 points to lead the Bulls to a 114-110 win over Milwaukee to tie their first-round series at 1-1. DeRozan scored eight points in a key 13-0 run by Chicago late in the third quarter to build a 16-point lead that was big enough to withstand Milwaukee’s late rally. While 40-point games without a 3-pointer are rare in the NBA these days, they are not for DeRozan. There were eight such games between the regular season and playoffs in 2021-22 – DeRozan accounted for five of them.
Nikola Jokic: April 21, 2022; Denver vs. Golden State; West First Round, Game 3
The league MVP posted two 37-point games in Denver’s first round series with the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. In Game 3, he did everything he could to help the Nuggets avoid the dreaded 3-0 deficit, but it was not enough against the Warriors. Jokic finished with 37 points and 18 rebounds – the first player to reach those marks in a playoff game since LeBron James in 2015. Three days later, Jokic went for 37 points again as Denver was able to stave off elimination and force a Game 5.
Jayson Tatum/Giannis Antetokounmpo: Boston at Milwaukee; East Semifinals, Game 6
I’m cheating and including two stat lines in one spot since they both occurred in the same game in an amazing duel between Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup. With their season on the line, Tatum delivered a masterpiece to force a Game 7 back in Boston. As Giannis and the Bucks were mounting a fourth-quarter comeback, Tatum scored 16 of Boston’s 26 points in the final 12 minutes to secure the win and extend the series. In the loss, Giannis became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2001 to post a 40-20 playoff game.
Ja Morant: May 3, 2022; Memphis vs. Golden State; West Semifinals, Game 2
With his team staring at an 0-2 deficit at home in the conference semifinals, Ja Morant took over and would not let the Grizzlies lose. Morant matched his playoff career-high with 47 points to lead the Grizzlies to a 106-101 win over the Warriors and even their first-round series at 1-1. With neither team leading by more than five points in the fourth quarter, Morant took over late by scoring Memphis’ final 15 points of the game. He finished with 18 points in the fourth quarter and did so while unable to see well out of one eye after a collision late in the third quarter.
Luka Doncic: May 2, 2022: Dallas at Phoenix, West Semifinals, Game 2
In his first game in the conference semifinal round – the Mavericks had been eliminated in the first round in each of the past two seasons by the Clippers – Luka Doncic put up huge numbers for Dallas, but it was not enough to overcome top-seeded Phoenix as the Mavericks fell 121-114 despite Luka’s 45 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. This was Luka’s only 40-point game of the series, as the Mavericks found success with a more balanced attack, eventually winning the series in seven games. For his playoff career, the Mavericks are just 2-6 when Luka scores 40+ points in a playoff game.
Jimmy Butler: May 27, 2022; Miami at Boston; East Finals, Game 6
Jimmy Butler led all players with four 40+ point games in this year’s playoffs despite not advancing to the NBA Finals. While Butler gave us plenty of epic stat lines to choose from, there was no denying his Game 6 performance against Boston to force a winner-take-all Game 7 as the one to make this list. Butler’s 47 points were a playoff career-high; he now has six 40+ point playoff games in his three seasons in Miami, while having zero 40+ point games during the regular season during his Heat tenure. Butler’s 46-9-8 performance brought flashbacks to LeBron James’ 45-15-5 Game 6 performance in Boston a decade earlier that forced a Game 7 back in Miami. While LeBron’s Heat were able to win Game 7 and advance to The Finals, Butler and the Heat came up just short two days later.
Klay Thompson: May 26, 2022; Golden State vs. Dallas; West Finals, Game 5
The legend of Game 6 Klay added another chapter in the conference semifinals, as Klay erupted for eight 3-pointers and 30 points to help the Warriors close out the Grizzlies. In the next round, Thompson didn’t wait until Game 6 to unleash his best performance as he scored 32 points and knocked down eight 3-pointers to help the Warriors eliminate the Mavericks in five games and advance to the NBA Finals for the sixth time in eight seasons. It was fitting that Klay shined in the game that sent the Warriors back to the championship stage, where his 941-day saga to return to the court began during the 2019 Finals.
Stephen Curry: June 10, 2022; Golden State at Boston; NBA Finals, Game 4
When it came time to choose the signature stat line from the 2022 NBA Finals, Stephen Curry’s epic performance in Game 4 in Boston was an easy choice. With his team trailing 2-1, Curry put the Warriors on his back and delivered a dominant performance as he carved up the league’s top-ranked defense. Curry has had playoff games with more points, but no performance was more important than this one as he helped the Warriors even the series at 2-2 and began a three-game win streak to close out the Celtics, claim Golden State’s fourth title in eight seasons and earn his first-ever Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award.