Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young has established himself as an All-Star and standout player in the NBA. Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons is still working to find his clear niche in the league. On Monday night, the two waged a backcourt battle that will be remembered for years to come.
The Blazers beat the Hawks 136-131 in Portland, but Young took the spotlight for a good portion of the game. He finished with a career-high 56 points, shooting 17-for-26 overall, 7-for-12 on 3-pointers and 15-for-15 on free throws. Young also had 14 assists to become the first NBA player with 56 points and 14 assists in a game.
— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2022
In addition to that, he joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook and James Harden as the only players with 55 points and 10 assists in a game. Young’s 56 points are the second-most points scored in a single game, finishing a point behind Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins (who scored 57 points twice in his career).
His 56-point game eclipsed Kevin Durant’s 51-point performance for the Nets at Detroit on Dec. 12. Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Boston’s Jaylen Brown have had 50-point games this season.
Young became the first player with 50-plus points and 14-plus assists in a game since Harden with the Houston Rockets on Dec. 31, 2016.
“I don’t care about nothing besides the fact we lost, so it sucks I had this type of night on a loss because at the end of the day that’s all that matters to me,” Young said. “I just wish we would have won.”
Of course, Simons more than held his own in this game as well. He played through his grief over the recent death of his grandfather — whom he called “Papa” — while scoring a career-high 43 points. Simons nailed a career-high nine 3-pointers, the most for a Portland player this season. The 22-year-old Simons is the youngest Portland player to score more than 40 points in a game, breaking Geoff Petrie’s mark set on March 19, 1971.
After missing Portland’s last game, Simons started in place of All-Star Damian Lillard, who was out because of injury management.
“I came in with a heavy heart, but obviously a clear mind for what I needed to do,” Simons said. His grandfather, who had pancreatic cancer, passed away Sunday. “This is all him, honestly. I give credit to him, dedicated this whole game to him.”
"I dedicate this whole game to him."
Anfernee Simons' heartfelt words on his career-best 43-point game after his grandfather passed away yesterday. pic.twitter.com/WxONxCAUqn
— NBA (@NBA) January 4, 2022
Per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com, Simons was able to visit his grandfather, Jake Carter, last weekend. He then found out he had died as soon as he arrived back in Portland on Sunday night. With Lillard ailing and CJ McCollum still recovering from his right lung injury, Simons decided to play Monday.
“Sad kind of day but he would want me to play today, so I wanted to go out there and play my game and play to the best of my abilities,” Simons said. “That was all him that took over my body tonight.”
A night to remember ❤️ pic.twitter.com/OIu6EUerdT
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 4, 2022
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.