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Quick Mailbag: 40+ Point Scoring Teammates in Same Game

Posted by Neil Paine on January 18, 2011

Last week we had a question that I wanted to get to, but didn't have a chance until today. David wrote:

"After seeing LeBron drop 44 and Wade drop 34 in the game today, I was wondering when was the last time two players on the same team both scored 40+?"

Our box score database goes back to 1986-87 -- 1991 for the playoffs -- so we have three games on hand where two teammates scored 40+ points in the same game (and oddly enough, two took place in the postseason):

  • Utah at Houston, May 5, 1995. Facing elimination in Game 4 of the 1995 West quarters, the Rockets got exactly the kind of performance they envisioned when they acquired Clyde Drexler to pair with Hakeem Olajuwon. Glide dropped 41, Dream poured in 40, and Houston dominated 123-106. Two nights later, Olajuwon & Drexler combined for 64 points to put Utah away, and they went on to power the team's 2nd consecutive NBA title bid that June.
  • Chicago at Indiana, February 18, 1996. For the Bulls, this was just one of 72 victories in a landmark 1996 campaign that still stands as the most successful in NBA history. Fresh off the All-Star break, Chicago took their 36th win in their last 39 games when Michael Jordan (44 points) and Scottie Pippen (40) combined for more than 76% of the team's scoring output all by themselves.
  • Philadelphia at Indiana, May 6, 2000. This time, Indiana was on the giving end of the scoring outbursts, as Jalen Rose and Reggie Miller each tallied 40 apiece during a 108-91 win over the Sixers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis. The Pacers would go on to take the series in 6 games, eventually advancing to the NBA Finals before running into a Laker buzz saw.

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27 Responses to “Quick Mailbag: 40+ Point Scoring Teammates in Same Game”

  1. TY Says:

    i love this site, but why is your box score database so limited? is it really THAT hard to find box scores from before 1986 and 1991?

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    You'd be surprised.

  3. Sean Says:

    It is, in fact, very difficult to find past box scores. Record keeping for basketball is very poor compared to baseball, probably because it is not nearly as popular of a sport, and the statistics are not as descriptive.

  4. Sean Says:

    Here is the entire history of games where two teammates scored 40 in the same game. It's happened nine times in the regular season and four times in the playoffs. This particular event is officially recorded in record books.

    Regular season

    1. Baltimore Bullets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, November 14, 1964 (Gus Johnson 41, Walt Bellamy 40)

    2. Los Angeles Lakers at San Francisco Warriors, February 11, 1970 (Elgin Baylor 43, Jerry West 43)

    3. New Orleans Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets, April 10, 1977 (Pete Maravich 45, Nate Williams 41) (David Thompson also scored 40 points for Denver in the same game)

    4. Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, January 5, 1978 (Paul Westphal 43, Walter Davis 40)

    5. San Antonio Spurs vs. Milwaukee Bucks, March 6, 1982 (3 OT) (George Gervin 50, Mike Mitchell 45) (Brian Winters also scored 42 points for Milwaukee in the same game)

    6. Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets, December 13, 1983 (3 OT) (Isiah Thomas 47, John Long 41) (also the highest scoring game in NBA history)

    7. Denver Nuggets vs. Detroit Pistons, December 13, 1983 (3 OT) (yes, the same game!) (Kiki Vandeweghe 51, Alex English 47)

    8. Utah Jazz vs. Detroit Pistons, March 19, 1984 (Adrian Dantley 43, John Drew 42)

    9. Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers, February 18, 1996 (Michael Jordan 44, Scottie Pippen 40)

    Playoffs

    1. Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons, March 29, 1962 (Elgin Baylor 45, Jerry West 41)

    2. Houston Rockets at Dallas Mavericks, April 30, 1988 (Eric "Sleepy" Floyd 42, Hakeem Olajuwon 41)

    3. Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz, May 5, 1995 (Clyde Drexler 41, Hakeem Olajuwon 40)

    4. Indiana Pacers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, May 6, 2000 (Reggie Miller 40, Jalen Rose 40)

    As you can see, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West amazingly did this in both the regular season and the playoffs. They had a lot of games where they combined for 70, 80, 90 points. Hakeem Olajuwon is the only player to do this twice in the postseason.

  5. Neil Paine Says:

    Great stuff, Sean.

  6. Sean Says:

    Thanks Neil, how did you do a search for two different players in the same game? I didn't know that there is a way to search that.

    For anyone who wants to know more,
    The December 13, 1983 game (#6 and #7 in the regular season) is the highest scoring game in history, so the official box score for that game can be found in pretty much any Official NBA Guide that has been published since '84.

    The March 6, 1982 game (#5 in the regular season) was also the highest scoring game in history at the time of its occurrence, so the official box score for that game can be found in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 Official NBA Guides (no others, though).

  7. Justin Kubatko Says:

    TY wrote:

    i love this site, but why is your box score database so limited? is it really THAT hard to find box scores from before 1986 and 1991?

    The use of the word "limited" makes me chuckle. Is there any other site on the Internet that has regular season box scores dating back to the 1986-87 season? And good luck trying to find a box score from even five years ago on the major sports sites.

    In answer to your second question, it's not that hard to find partial box scores (that is, box scores containing field goals, free throws, and points) for every game ever played, but it's almost impossible to find complete box scores (with rebounds, assists, etc.). In fact, we have a PDF of the box score of every game played prior to the 1986-87 season. However, the only way to get this information into a database is by hand, a project that would require an incredible number of man hours. Now, we do have some ideas on how we might be able to do this, but it's going to take a lot of planning on our part before we're ready to start such a daunting project.

  8. Sean Says:

    By the way, teammates scoring 30 or more points in the same game is also recorded, for the playoffs, but not for the regular season.

    Players scoring 30 or more points, game
    3 – Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz, April 19, 1984 (Dan Issel 33, Kiki Vandeweghe 32, Alex English 31)
    3 – San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors, April 25, 1991 (Willie Anderson 38, David Robinson 30, Rod Strickland 30)

    Players scoring 30 or more points, both teams, game
    4 – Houston Rockets (2) at Orlando Magic (2), June 9, 1995 (Hakeem Olajuwon 34, Sam Cassell 31; Shaquille O’Neal 33, Anfernee Hardaway 32)

    I know that in the regular season, the Bulls have had three players score 30+ only once.

    Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Lakers, December 17, 1996 (Michael Jordan 30, Scottie Pippen 35, Toni Kukoc 31)

    Kukoc came off the bench in that game, and the game went into OT with the Bulls prevailing.

  9. AHL Says:

    Right, the problem is a) machine readable and/or b) very very expensive (Elias Sports Bureau).

    Actually, if everything is in PDF form as Justin says, that's already a large step towards getting it into a database.

  10. Sean Says:

    That will change if I have anything to say about it...

    Justin, are those PDFs just the shooting stats, or are they complete?

  11. Jason J Says:

    Surprised MJ and Scottie only managed it once. Also nada on Shaq and Kobe is pretty surprising.

  12. Sean Says:

    MJ and Scottie only managed it once because Pippen was not that skilled of a scorer to consistenly reach 40, I think he only did it three or four times in his career.

  13. Jason J Says:

    #12 - True, but I'm still a little surprised. They played together from 88-93 and 96-98 with only one major injury between them and went deep into the playoffs almost every year. That's a lot of opportunities for Scottie to have a hot hand or a mismatch, and Mike was a threat to go for 40 any time.

    Durant and Westbrook have the goods to do it if they stay together long-term. As do Bron and Wade obviously.

    What's the highest usage duo in the NBA history? Didn't Neil do a post on that a while back?

  14. Sean Says:

    I think Shaq and Kobe is explained by the fact that their primes didn't really coexist, when Shaq was in his dominant prime (probably THE most dominant in history after Wilt and Michael), Kobe was not quite enough of a consistent scorer to reach 40. When Kobe had become a consistent dominant scorer, Shaq's decline from his prime was pretty sharp and he had lost a lot of his dominance, and Kobe was also a bit selfish in not giving the ball to Shaq enough by the this time in their respective careers (2003, 2004?)

  15. Neil Paine Says:

    Re: #6 - I had to do a database query myself, it's currently impossible to do on the site. We'll definitely take a look at whether we can make that a PI feature, though.

  16. Sean Says:

    True, but that just demonstrates that Scottie's offensive game had its limits, Scottie had hot shooting nights (for instance, his 16-17 game is one of the best shooting nights in league history), but he was more of an all-around player, not dominant enough of a scorer to get 40. He was an athletic slasher, he didn't have a jump shot that could net 40 most nights. It's also fair to say that Pippen let Jordan have the shine most nights, and this might not have been reciprocated to the full extent. But MJ's skill level on offense was significantly higher than Pip's so he deserved to have the ball on a lot more possessions than Pip. He's in the Hall of Fame for his all-around game and his consistent defense, but Pippen was truly a 20 ppg scorer on offense.

  17. Sean Says:

    15,

    that would be extremely useful for a lot of situations that are otherwise nearly impossible to search for efficiently. But it's not wise to limit to just two players, rather as many players as are on the team. For instance, it would be nice to find the games where a lot of players scored in double figures. The record for that is ten players, and I know that the most recent instance was the Phoenix Suns did it during the 1994-95 season. Is there a way for you to search which game that happened?

    I'd imagine that the coding for that search tool would be a nightmare.

  18. Walter Says:

    Niel, recently you added the option of creating more complex filters for the season queries (such as Assist / Turnovers > X). Any plans to do the same for the individual game query?

    The reason I ask is that Henry Abbott at Truehoop just post some stats on Blake Griffin's great night and he uses the filters Pts>=47 and FGA=47 and Pts/FGA<=1.96 that way someone who scored more points on only one more attempt wouldn't be excluded. I would love to be able to pull that from the game query where as curretly it can't be done.

    Thanks and keep up the great site!

  19. ronan Says:

    Hi, on the West/Baylor subject... They had 77 +30pts/+30pts games in regular season. The second best duo is Big O and Twyman with... 34 ! If you search well, you can find nearly all the box scores on the internet as I did !

  20. Jared Ras Says:

    Big deal, Wilt Chamberlain and Ted Luckenbill once combined for 100 points in a game!

    ...Just kidding, great post and comments.

  21. Ian Says:

    I'd be willing to chip in some man-hours for the database project. Just thought I'd start the volunteer train...

  22. Frank Says:

    I'd be willing to chip in any numbers of hours as well (I was sorta compiling boxscores on my own with Proquest from the early 80s from some archived newspapers, and it's incredibly difficult). I love the site, and would be more than happy to volunteer to help enter data for you guys (I spend an ungodly amount of time on this site as is).

  23. Nuno Says:

    I'm with Ian and Frank (I make Frank's words mine, about the time I spend here).

  24. Jason J Says:

    I'd be willing to help out as well... Do I get internship credit?

  25. Neil Paine Says:

    Thanks for the offers, everybody. It might be some time before this project gets under way, but we'll try to contact all of you when it happens. At that time, any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

  26. Ian Says:

    Please do let me know if this project gets underway. I would love to contribute!

  27. Steve Says:

    Great stuff here guys. Love visiting Basketball Reference.