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Turkey Day Specials

Posted by Neil Paine on November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day may be known for its family get-togethers, enormous feasts, festive parades, and football games, but don't forget that they also play basketball on the fourth Thursday in November. Since 1986-87, the earliest year for which we have game logs, there have been 21 NBA games played on Thanksgiving, including at least 1 game in all but one year from 1994-2005 (and the only reason they didn't hoop it up in '98 was the lockout). The league took a hiatus from Thanksgiving games for the past two seasons, but we knew that wouldn't last long -- indeed, pro ball is once again hitting the hardwood tonight, pitting the Wizards (and their new coach Ed Tapscott) against the Orlando Magic at 8 p.m. EST, to be followed at 10:30 by a Western Conference PG battle between Chris Paul's Hornets and Chauncey Billups' Nuggets.

In honor of the return of Thanksgiving Day NBA action, we're going to give you our own version of a basketball blessing, feeding you the top individual Turkey Day performances since '86. First, the highest-scoring outings in the database:

Date         Player         Team    Opp     mp   fg   fga  3p   3pa  ft   fta  pts
11/28/2002  Andre Miller    LAC     NJN     48   14   24   2    5    7    7    37
11/28/2002  Jason Kidd      NJN     LAC     42   12   24   6    9    5    5    35
11/22/2001  Keith Van Horn  NJN     LAC     40   12   21   3    9    7    9    34
11/24/2005  Kobe Bryant     LAL     SEA     39   12   26   4    5    6    8    34
11/24/2005  Rashard Lewis   SEA     LAL     43   12   23   4    9    4    4    32
11/28/1996  Joe Smith       GSW     NJN     42   10   26   1    1    9    13   30
11/28/2002  Steve Nash      DAL     IND     41   10   23   4    7    5    5    29
11/24/1994  Rik Smits       IND     GSW     29   12   14   0    0    4    6    28
11/23/2000  Vince Carter    TOR     IND     40   9    16   2    5    8    9    28
11/28/2002  Jermaine O'Neal IND     DAL     40   11   22   0    0    6    8    28

Two pairs of these outbursts came in the same game, when Miller outgunned Kidd in a rare Clips win in '02, and Kobe topped Lewis during the NBA's most recent Thanksgiving game. Now, how about rebounding?

Date         Player             Team    Opp     mp    orb  trb
11/28/2002   Jermaine O'Neal    IND     DAL     40     4   18
11/22/2001   Elton Brand        LAC     NJN     39     6   16
11/28/1996   Jayson Williams    NJN     GSW     37     7   15
11/22/2001   Christian Laettner WAS     IND     45     7   15
11/26/1987   Otis Thorpe        SAC     NJN     43     3   13
11/22/2001   Keith Van Horn     NJN     LAC     40     3   12
11/24/2005   Lamar Odom         LAL     SEA     45     2   12
11/28/1996   Shawn Bradley      NJN     GSW     30     5   12
11/22/2001   Jason Kidd         NJN     LAC     40     3   12
11/28/1996   Dale Davis         IND     SAC     31     8   12

Needless to say, this was a pretty good individual outing for O'Neal -- the Pacers definitely should have given thanks for his skills on that night, as he led them to a 110-98 win over the Mavs, snapping Dallas' 14-game season-opening winning streak. Meanwhile, during the holidays we like to celebrate giving as well as receiving, so here are your Thanksgiving assist leaders:

Date         Player          Team    Opp     mp    ast  tov
11/22/2001   Jamaal Tinsley  IND     WAS     45    23    5
11/28/2002   Andre Miller    LAC     NJN     48    16    1
11/28/2002   Jamaal Tinsley  IND     DAL     43    15    3
11/25/2004   Jamaal Tinsley  IND     MIN     41    14    3
11/24/1994   Mark Jackson    IND     GSW     26    14    5
11/22/2001   Jason Kidd      NJN     LAC     40    11    3
11/27/1997   Mark Jackson    IND     VAN     20    11    2
11/23/1995   Mark Jackson    IND     HOU     30    11    2
11/27/2003   Jason Kidd      NJN     LAC     36    10    6
11/25/1999   Mark Jackson    IND     DET     29    10    1

That's right, Miller not only scored 37 points on Thanksgiving 2002, but he also doled out 16 assists. Since the Clippers scored 2.24 pts/FG, that means Miller was directly involved in 58% of Los Angeles' 126 points that night! Meanwhile, we can crown Jamaal Tinsley and Mark Jackson as the official Thanksgiving Day assist masters -- together, they make up 7 of the 10 best single-game assist performances since 1986.

OK, but what about the defenders? Here are the guys who made the most defensive plays in a single Thanksgiving Day game:

Date         Player             Team    Opp     mp    drb  stl  blk  plays
11/22/2001   Keith Van Horn     NJN     LAC     40     9    3    3    15
11/24/2005   LeBron James       CLE     IND     43     9    5    1    15
11/28/2002   Jermaine O'Neal    IND     DAL     40    14    0    1    15
11/23/1995   Robert Horry       HOU     IND     40     6    4    4    14
11/28/1996   Shawn Bradley      NJN     GSW     30     7    2    4    13
11/28/2002   Michael Olowokandi LAC     NJN     43     8    0    5    13
11/22/2001   Todd MacCulloch    NJN     LAC     22    10    2    1    13
11/22/2001   Elton Brand        LAC     NJN     39    10    1    2    13
11/28/2002   Elton Brand        LAC     NJN     44     6    2    4    12
11/25/2004   Jamaal Tinsley     IND     MIN     41     7    5    0    12

A lot of good 2-way performances are in there, too -- of the top 10 defensive games, 5 (Van Horn, O'Neal, Brand twice, and Tinsley) also saw the player pour in 20 or more points.

Finally, we leave you with the best all-around Thanksgiving Day games, as measured by John Hollinger's Game Score:

Date       Player         Team Opp  mp  fg  fga 3p 3pa ft fta orb trb ast stl blk tov pf pts gmsc
11/28/2002 Andre Miller   LAC  NJN  48  14  24  2  5   7  7   2   3   16   2   0   1   4  37 38.1
11/22/2001 Keith Van Horn NJN  LAC  40  12  21  3  9   7  9   3  12    1   3   3   3   4  34 29.3
11/28/2002 Jason Kidd     NJN  LAC  42  12  24  6  9   5  5   1   8    8   0   0   2   1  35 29.0
11/22/2001 Jamaal Tinsley IND  WAS  45   6  15  0  1   7  8   2  11   23   1   1   5   2  19 26.6
11/22/2001 C. Laettner    WAS  IND  45   8  13  0  0   3  3   7  15    7   1   0   0   2  19 25.5
11/22/2001 Vince Carter   TOR  MIL  40  11  23  2  7   2  2   4   8    5   2   3   1   0  26 24.9
11/28/1996 Robert Pack    NJN  GSW  40   7  16  1  2  10 11   0   2    9   4   1   2   3  25 24.6
11/28/2002 Steve Nash     DAL  IND  41  10  23  4  7   5  5   4   7    9   2   0   4   1  29 24.5
11/22/2001 Elton Brand    LAC  NJN  39   7  13  0  0   9 13   6  16    2   1   2   1   2  23 24.3
11/24/2005 Rashard Lewis  SEA  LAL  43  12  23  4  9   4  4   2   5    2   0   1   0   2  32 24.3

From all of us here at the Sports-Reference family, enjoy tonight's games and have a great Thanksgiving!

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