Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant have notched some of March's most memorable single-game scoring efforts.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament officially tipped off on Wednesday with the First Four games. But in the NBA, the term “March Madness” has been rolling strong since March 5 — especially in the context of high-scoring performances.
So far this month, six different players have combined to log eight games of 50 or more points, starting with LeBron James’ 56-point game against the Golden State Warriors on March 5. Since then, there has been no more than a three-day delay between 50-point games in the NBA.
The latest offering came Thursday, when Detroit forward Saddiq Bey hit a career-best and Pistons record-tying 10 3-pointers, part of a 51-point outing in the evening’s lone action against the Orlando Magic.
That follows Tuesday’s 60-piece by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving … against the Orlando Magic. That total marked both a career-high for Irving and was a Nets single-game scoring record. Irving’s 60 came a day after Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns set a franchise- and career-best with a 60-point game of his own in a win against the San Antonio Spurs.
And, lest we forget, Irving’s 60-pointer came just two days after his teammate, Kevin Durant, scored 53 (which was one point shy of his single-game career-high).
What has led to the recent run of 50-point games across the NBA?
Of the eight 50-point games this month, six of the players who accomplished them needed less than 40 minutes to accomplish them (with Jayson Tatum’s effort narrowly missing the cut at 41 minutes).
The last month with more 50-point games in the NBA was nearly six decades ago — all the way back to December 1962. There were nine of them that month, six by Wilt Chamberlain of the San Francisco Warriors, the other three by Elgin Baylor of the Lakers.
Chamberlain had eight all by himself that October. He made 50-point nights look ordinary in those days; the NBA had 19 of them in December 1961, 15 in January 1962 and 12 in February 1962.
Here’s a closer look at each of the 50-point games in March so far.
Date: March 5, 2022
The stats: 56 pts (19-31 FG | 6-11 3pt FG | 12-13 FT), 10 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk (in 39 minutes)
LeBron James dominates the Warriors with a 56-point showing on March 5.
The Lakers superstar became the fourth-oldest player in NBA history to top 50 points. Additionally, he became the oldest player to record 50-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in a game, besting the mark previously held by Michael Jordan. The performance was his third-most points in a regular-season game and the 13th time he has had at least 50. Additionally, he had 30 points in the second half. It was his 24th straight game with at least 25 points to extend the longest streak of James’ illustrious career.
Date: March 6, 2022
The stats: 54 pts (16-30 FG | 8-15 3pt FG | 14-17 FT), 5 reb, 3 ast (in 41 minutes)
Jayson Tatum ties Larry Bird for most 50-point games in Celtics history with his 54-point game vs. Brooklyn.
In a showdown between All-Star scorers in Tatum and Durant, it was Tatum who emerged with a win in both the one-on-one matchup and the game itself. Tatum finished with 54 points (to Durant’s 37) as he notched his fourth career 50-point regular-season game. He tied Hall of Famer and Celtics legend Larry Bird for the most 50-point scoring games in Celtics history in what was his second 50-point game of the 2021-22 season.
Date: March 8, 2022
The stats: 50 pts (15-19 FG | 9-12 3pt FG | 11-13 FT), 3 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk (in 37 minutes)
Kyrie Irving finishes with 50 points on 15-for-19 shooting vs. Charlotte.
For the first time since Jan. 2020, Irving crossed the 50-point threshold and recorded what was then his third 50-point game as a member of the Nets. He needed only 19 field goal attempts to hit 50, which marked the second-fewest amount of field goal attempts to accomplish the feat since Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley did so with the Utah Jazz on Oct. 31, 1980. Overall, this was Irving’s fifth career 50-point game, which made him one of 22 players in NBA history with five such games (per Basketball Reference).
Date: March 11, 2022
The stats: 50 pts (18-25 FG | 6-9 3pt FG | 8-8 FT), 7 reb, 6 ast, 1 blk (in 36 minutes)
LeBron James nets 50 points in the Lakers' win vs. Washington on March 11.
Less than a week after dropping 56 on the Warriors, James was at it again for the Lakers. He finished with an even 50 to give James the 14th career regular-season game of 50 or more points — tying him with Hall of Famer Rick Barry for sixth on the NBA’s all-time list. Additionally, the 37-year-old James became the oldest player in league history to notch multiple 50-point games in a season. In terms of Lakers lore, he joined Kobe Bryant as the only Lakers to score 50 in back-to-back home games (Bryant did it in April 2007).
Date: March 13, 2022
The stats: 53 pts (19-37 FG | 4-13 3pt FG | 11-12 FT), 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl (in 43 minutes)
Kevin Durant finishes with 53 points as the Nets squeeze past the Knicks.
Apparently not content to watch Irving have all the 50-point fun for Brooklyn, Durant got in on the act in a nail-biting win against the Knicks. This game was especially significant as it marked the 14th game of 50 or more points in 2021-22, which was tied for the fourth-most in a single season since 1963-64. Durant set career highs in field goals made and attempts in his eighth career 50-point game. He became the second player in Nets history (Irving is the other) to have multiple 50-point games in a season and, at the time, Durant became the third player in 2021-22 with multiple 50-point games (James and Tatum were the others).
Date: March 14, 2022
The stats: 60 pts (19-31 FG | 7-11 3pt FG | 15-16 FT), 17 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl (in 36 minutes)
Karl-Anthony Towns scores a franchise-high and career-high 60 points on March 14.
This one was perhaps one of the biggest performances of the month on several fronts. Towns, the reigning MTN DEW 3-Point Contest champion, showed off his range with a 7-for-11 performance on 3-pointers. He became the first Wolves player to notch multiple 50-point games with the franchise. Additionally, he joined Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan, James Harden and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history with a 60-15 game. The significance of Towns’ 60-point game went beyond those feats, too. As Towns himself noted, the performance came two years to the day his mother, Jackie Cruz-Towns, was hospitalized in New Jersey with COVID-19 — which she would later succumb to.
Date: March 15, 2022
The stats: 60 pts (20-31 FG | 8-12 3pt FG | 12-13 FT), 6 reb, 4 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk (in 35 minutes)
No one in March scored more points in fewer game minutes than Irving did on the road in Orlando on this date. Perhaps even more impressive was that Irving got more than halfway to his 60 in the first half, racking up 41 points in just 22 minutes of work. Irving surpassed the Nets’ single-game regular-season scoring mark with his effort, besting the 57-point showing Deron Williams had back in 2012. It was the most by an NBA player in the first two quarters since Kobe Bryant had 42 against Washington on March 28, 2003. Additionally, his 41 points in the first half are the most in any half of an NBA game since Devin Booker scored 51 in his 70-point game in 2017.
Date: March 17, 2022
The stats: 51 pts (17-27 FG | 10-14 3pt FG | 7-10 FT), 9 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl (in 39 minutes)
Saddiq Bey scores 51 points on 27 shots to keep the NBA's indelible run in motion.
With March Madness in full effect, and only a single game on the NBA’s Thursday docket, Villanova product Saddiq Bey took up the pro league’s scoring mantle. Bey ripped off a career-best half, scoring 30 points while sinking six 3s before the break, including an impressive back-to-back pair that capped the initial outburst. As the game progressed with the Pistons in control, the Magic hung around just enough to keep Bey involved — he added another 15 points in the fourth — and he hit 50 and surpassed the mark on a pair of free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.