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Week 22 Rewind: 10 things to know from the past 7 days in the NBA

LeBron James reaches another milestone, multiple 60-point performances, a clash of MVP candidates and more from Week 22 in the NBA.

LeBron James moves past Karl Malone and now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time scoring record.

1. LeBron surpasses Malone for No. 2 on all-time in scoring

Another week and another milestone for LeBron James, who just took his second-to-last step up the all-time scoring ladder by surpassing Karl Malone (36,928 points) in career scoring.

LeBron passed The Mailman on Saturday as he finished with 38 points in the Lakers’ 127-119 loss to the Wizards to bring his career scoring total to 36,947 points. LeBron now trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) as the top scorer in NBA history.

Needing 1,441 points to pass The Captain, the question now is not if LeBron will do it, but when he will do it. The Lakers have 11 games remaining in the regular season for LeBron to inch away at the lead and should pass Kareem sometime next season.

LeBron would need 49 games to pass Kareem based on his current season scoring average (29.8 ppg) and 54 games based on his career scoring average (27.1 ppg).

Assuming he plays at least 10 of the Lakers’ final 11 games this season, he would need another 44 games next season to pass Kareem based on his career scoring average. The 18-time All-Star has played fewer than 50 games only once in his career – 45 out of 72 in the 2020-21 season.

2. March barrage of 50-plus points games continues

Week 22 saw three more 50-point games to bring the total from March to eight with 10 days of action still left in the month. And all eight of these 50-point games have come in a span of 13 days – from March 5-17.

50-plus points games this season

  • Opening Day (Oct. 19) to March 4: Nine 50-point games in 137 days
  • March 5 to March 17: Eight 50+ point games in 13 days

The last time there were more 50-point games in a single month was nearly six decades ago – when there were nine in December 1962. San Francisco’s Wilt Chamberlain accounted for six of those 50-point games, while Los Angeles’ Elgin Baylor had the other three. The recent 50-point games have been much more evenly distributed as six different players have dropped 50-pieces this month – LeBron James (2x), Kyrie Irving (2x), Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Karl-Anthony Towns and Saddiq Bey.

3. First 60-point games of the season

With 50-point games coming left and right during March, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kyrie Irving upped the ante by each scoring franchise records and career-highs of 60 points on back-to-back nights.

Towns got it started on Monday with 60 points in just 36 minutes during Minnesota’s 149-139 win over San Antonio. Towns shot 19-for-31 from the field, 7-for-11 from 3-point range (this year’s 3-point champion) and was nearly perfect from the free-throw line (15-for-16). He also grabbed 17 rebounds for the Wolves to add to his total tally.

Towns, who scored 32 of his points in the third quarter alone, became the first player since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to post a game with at least 60 points and 17 rebounds. The only other players to do that dating back to 1983-84 are Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.

One day later, it was Kyrie’s turn to go for 60 as he carved up Orlando’s defense all night long. He finished with 60 points in just 35 minutes – becoming one of just five players with 60-plus points in under 36 minutes – as he shot 20-for-31 from the field, 8-for-12 from 3-point range, and 12-for-13 from the free-throw line. The Nets outscored the Magic by 36 points in those 35 minutes as he added six boards, four assists and four steals in the 150-108 win.

4. Pacers showtime fastbreak and reaction

This play has been on replay since it went down on Sunday in Indianapolis. The question is, what is the best part of this sequence?

  • The lookahead pass from Tyrese Haliburton to set it up
  • The behind-the-back dish from Lance Stephenson to Oshae Brissett on the break
  • The reverse jam from Brissett to finish the play
  • The reaction from Justin Anderson after the dunk

First, here’s the full play from start to finish:

Here’s a closer look at the reaction after the dunk:

5. Historically close scoring race continues

This past week, we launched the scoring title tracker to keep up with the historically close race for the title between Joel Embiid, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. After LeBron’s 38 points on Saturday and Embiid’s 21 points on Sunday, the race has only gotten tighter.

At the end of Week 22, Embiid (29.827), LeBron (29.811) and Giannis (29.797) are now separated by just 0.03 points per game in scoring average. That is by far the smallest differential among three players; the closest finish on record is from 1985-86 when Dominque Wilkins, Adrian Dantley and Alex English were separated by 0.53 points per game.

It is also closer than any finish between the top two players in scoring. The closest finish on record is from the 1977-78 season when George Gervin topped David Thompson by 0.07 points per game.

Keep an eye out for updates to the scoring title tracker as the race plays out over the final weeks of the regular season. And circle Wednesday’s matchup between Embiid and the Sixers taking on LeBron and the Lakers (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

6. MVP showdown between Jokic and Embiid

The Kia MVP Ladder is updated each week with the top 10 contenders for the league’s most prestigious individual honor. Since the end of January, the top two players on the ladder have been Denver’s Nikola Jokic (the reigning MVP) and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid (the current scoring leader).

The two big men met for the first time this season on March 14 in Philadelphia. The Nuggets earned a 114-110 win behind 22 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks from Jokic. Embiid finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in the loss. After the game, it was only respect between the top two MVP candidates.

7. Play-In picture still coming into focus

The Play-In tournament is back for its third season and is adding even more drama to the final three weeks of the regular season.

First, there is the battle to finish in the top six in each conference, in order to secure a guaranteed playoff berth and avoid the Play-In.

Second, there is the battle to finish in the top 10 to get into a Play-In spot and give your team a chance to sneak into the postseason.

Finally, there is the battle within the Play-In field to improve your team’s chances of earning a playoff berth. The teams that finish the regular season ranked seventh and eighth in win percentage in each conference will meet in the Seven-Eight Game; the winner of that matchup earns the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, while the loser gets a second chance to earn the No. 8 seed by playing the winner of the Nine-Ten Game.

The teams that finish the regular season ranked ninth and tenth in win percentage in each conference must win two games in order to secure the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. First, they have to win the Nine-Ten Game, then must face the loser of the Seven-Eight Game, with the winner of that game earning the final spot in the postseason.

We saw that happen last season, when the Grizzlies finished ninth in win percentage, beat the Spurs in the Nine-Ten Game, then upset the Warriors to earn the No. 8 seed in the West.

Keep an eye on the Play-In picture page for daily updates with the latest results, tiebreakers, and potential scenarios that could play out over the new few weeks.

8. Warriors can’t avoid injury bug

Unfortunately, the weekly rewind can’t only bring good news and we have to mention a few key injuries that occurred over the past week, including another injury setback for the Warriors.

On March 14, Draymond Green returned to the Warriors lineup after being sidelined with a disc injury in his lower back since Jan. 9. It was the first time in over 1,000 days that the trio of Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had played together. Green was in the starting lineup for Klay’s return game in January, but it was a ceremonial thing as he immediately fouled after tip-off so he could exit the game. In their first game together in nearly three years, the Warriors defeated the Wizards 126-112 behind Curry’s 47 points on his birthday.

Two days later, the Warriors were taking on the Celtics and Curry suffered a sprained ligament in his left foot following a collision with Boston’s Marcus Smart. The injury is expected to keep Curry out for at least two weeks but Curry expects to be back in time for the start of the postseason.

A few other injury notes:

9. Stats leaders for Week 22

For games played between March 14-20, with a minimum of two games played.

  • Points: Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (38.3 ppg over 3 games) leads nine players that averaged at least 30 points during Week 22.
  • Rebounds: Utah’s Rudy Gobert (14.8 rpg over 4 games) leads seven players that averaged at least a dozen boards during Week 22.
  • Assists: Atlanta’s Trae Young (12.3 apg over 3 games) leads three players that averaged double-digit dimes during Week 22.
  • Steals: Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday (3.7 spg over 3 games) leads three players that averaged at least three steals during Week 22.
  • Blocks: Memphis teammates Brandon Clarke (3.0 bpg over 3 games) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (2.7 bpg over 3 games) finished 1-2 in blocks during Week 22.
  • 3-Pointers Made: Donovan Mitchell (7.0 3pg over 3 games) led four players that averaged at least five triples during Week 22.

10. Plays of the week