Ranking the Highest-Scoring NBA Games

10. November 10, 1990: Nuggets vs Suns

Final Score: Phoenix Suns defeat Denver Nuggets, 173-143

Combined points: 316


Throughout the eighties and early nineties, the Denver Nuggets were known for their high-scoring offense. What they were not known for, however, was having an actual defense, and their lack of defense was exhibited here. Led by Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson, the Suns would blow out Denver by thirty points. Cedric Ceballos scored 32 points off the bench, as five of Phoenix’s players had scored twenty points or more. The Suns’ 173 points tied the Celtics for most points scored in regulation. This game also had the highest-scoring first half in NBA history, with both teams combining for 174 points.

9. March 2, 1962: Knicks vs Warriors

Final Score: Philadelphia Warriors defeat New York Knicks, 169-147

Combined points: 316

This game is known to many basketball fans as the 100 point game. Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Warriors – an NBA scoring record that’s still untouchable to this very day. The next highest scorer on the Warriors was point guard Al Attles, who finished the game with only 17 points. Wilt, whose biggest flaw in his game was free-throw shooting, nailed 28 free throws on 32 attempts, which to this day is still an NBA record.

8. March 12, 1970: Rockets vs Royals

Final Score: Cincinnati Royals defeat San Diego Rockets, 165-151

Combined points: 316

Apparently, the Royals didn’t need much of a bench for this one. All five of their players in the starting lineup scored more than 20 points against the Rockets, while their only two bench players combined for 16 points. Four of the five starters had scored 28 points or more. Oscar Robertson, who recorded a triple-double with a 28-12-13 stat-line, didn’t even have the best scoring performance! That distinction went to small forward Tony Van Arsdale, who scored 36 points on just .552% shooting. Elvin Hayes had 40 points, which was the highest total for the Rockets.

7. January 11, 1984: Spurs vs Nuggets

Final Score: San Antonio Spurs defeat Denver Nuggets, 163-155

Combined points: 318


Yet another Denver Nuggets sighting!

At the time, this was the highest-scoring NBA game in regulation. Kiki Vandeweghe scored 50 points for the Nuggets, while George Gervin had 38 points for the Spurs. Interestingly enough, six of the twenty players who played in this game failed to score in double figures. Both teams shot a combined 54.5% from the field, as the Spurs pulled away from the high-scoring Nuggets.

6. November 2, 1990: Warriors vs Nuggets

Final Score: Golden State Warriors defeat Denver Nuggets 162-158

Combined points: 320

The Nuggets always seem to find themselves on the losing end of these high-scoring affairs, huh?

The start of the 1990-91 NBA season saw the Nuggets face off against the Golden State Warriors and their deadly offensive trio, Run TMC. The game would live up to the billing, as the Warriors edged the Nuggets in a close high-scoring affair. The 320 combined points by both teams are the most scored in regulation.

Chris Mullin led the way with 38 points, while Tim Hardaway recorded a double-double with 32 points and 18 assists. Mitch Richmond wasn’t so shabby either, as he scored 29 points. On the Nuggets’ side, Orlando Woolridge and Walter Davis scored 37 and 33 points, respectively. With the score being 160-158 in the final minute, Denver missed two crucial shots as the Warriors’ Rod Higgins iced the game with two successful free-throw attempts.

Much like the Nuggets, the Warriors didn’t play much defense during the Run TMC era (they allowed the second-most points in the league in 1990), so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this game was as high-scoring as it was.

5. October 30, 2019: Rockets vs Wizards

Final Score: Houston Rockets defeat Washington Wizards 159-158

Combined points: 317

(This game took place during the 2019 World Series when the Washington Nationals faced off against the Houston Astros. Coincidence?)

James Harden scored 59 points, which only accounted for 18.6 percent of the total points scored (per Fred Katz). Harden’s running mate, Russell Westbrook, had a triple-double with a 17-12-10 stat-line. Bradley Beal was the leading scorer for the Wizards, with 46 points, as six of his teammates were in double figures. Despite scoring at least 140 points per 100 possessions, the Wizards still lost – being only the second team in history to do so. This back-and-forth offensive battle was devoid of any defense, as Harden nailed his free-throws with 2.4 seconds left in the game to secure a victory for Houston.

4. December 7, 2006: Suns vs Nets

Final Score: Phoenix Suns defeat New Jersey Nets 161-157 (in double overtime)

Combined points: 318

This game was more of an epic point guard duel, with Hall-of-Fame point guards Steve Nash and Jason Kidd squaring off against one another. Nash had a double-double, as he scored a career-high 42 points and dished out 13 assists. His three-pointer near the end of regulation would be the shot that brought the game into the first overtime period. Kidd, on the other hand, had a triple-double – 38 points, 14 rebounds, and 14 assists. Aside from Nash and Kidd, eleven other players scored in double figures.

All in all, the game had 34 lead changes and 21 ties, with 17 lead changes and eight ties in just the fourth quarter alone! It took two overtimes for the Suns to prevail over the Nets, as Nash made two game-clinching free throws after being fouled while recovering an inbound pass from Boris Diaw.

3. March 6, 1982: Bucks vs Spurs

Final Score: San Antonio Spurs defeat Milwaukee Bucks 171-166 (in triple overtime)

Combined points: 337

Pop quiz: who was the leading scorer for the Bucks in this game? It wasn’t Sidney Moncrief, and it wasn’t Bob Lanier or Marques Johnson either. The leading scorer was actually Brian Winters, who scored 42 points off the bench. He made 13 straight field goals and accounted for only two of the four three-pointers made in the game. The second-leading scorer was another bench player, Junior Bridgeman, who tallied 31 points.

The Spurs would be powered on offense by Gervin and Mike Mitchell, who both combined for 95 points on 64% shooting. Additionally, two Spurs – 1982 assists leader Johnny Moore and Mike Bratz – had double figures in assists. Despite Winters’ best efforts, the Bucks were no match for the Gervin-Mitchell twosome, as they fell to the Spurs in a triple-overtime game.

2. December 13, 1983: Pistons vs Nuggets

Final Score: Detroit Pistons defeat Denver Nuggets 186-184 (in triple overtime)

Combined points: 370

With a whopping 370 points, this game has the record of being the highest-scoring game in NBA history. Both Vandeweghe and Alex English logged in 50 minutes for the Nuggets, scoring 51 and 47 points respectively. As for the Pistons – who were more of an offensive-oriented team at the time – Isiah Thomas led the team with 47 points. Shooting guard John Long wasn’t that far behind, as he had 41 points. Four players scoring 40 points or more in a single game still stands to this day as an NBA record.

Both teams combined to shoot 56 percent from the field, making an NBA-record 142 field goals on a gargantuan 251 combined shots. Also, both the Pistons and the Nuggets only shot 1-2 from behind the arc. 93 assists – an NBA record – were recorded, with 17 of them dished out from Thomas. Kelly Tripucka, the Pistons small forward who scored 35 points in this contest, scored 12 points in the second overtime as he willed Detroit to an overtime win.

“The game lasted so long, we were wondering if we could find a place to eat after the game,” said Tripucka, after the game. “We were wondering, ‘is there an all-night diner in Denver?’”

1. March 1, 2019: Bulls vs Hawks

Final Score: Chicago Bulls defeat Atlanta Hawks 168-161 (in quadruple overtime)

Combined points: 327

Throughout NBA history, only fourteen games have gone into four overtimes. This contest between the Bulls and Hawks happened to be one of them.

Zach LaVine scored a career-high 49 points for the Bulls, as he was a rebound and assist shy from a triple-double. Two of his teammates, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr., both scored 31 points in a double-double effort. Trae Young had 46 points and 16 assists, as six other Hawks had scored in double figures. Young was the first rookie since Michael Jordan to have 25 points and 15 assists in a game.

The Hawks would make a furious fourth-quarter comeback, with Young hitting a step-back three with 2.2 seconds left on the clock as Atlanta took a 124-121 lead. Porter Jr. made three free throws to tie the game and bring it into overtime. From that point onward, the contest became a back-and-forth affair.

LaVine, who scored eleven points in the first overtime, made a three-pointer with 1:31 remaining to put the Bulls up 139-138. After Wayne Selden made one of his three throws, Young made a lay-up to tie up the game and force a second overtime. Ryan Arcidiacono made a three-pointer to force the third overtime, and Markkanen would make three free throws in the fourth overtime to put the game away for good.

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