It's the New Year so it's time to reflect on some of the greatest performances of the season so far.
This NBA Season has been wild and unpredictable and there have been some unbelievable performances including nine 50+ point games and a 60 pointer by Kemba Walker in mid November.
But which players and which games stand out the most as we near the half way point of the season?
I am going to rank the 10 most impressive performances so far and then at the end of the rankings I will have a bonus list for the Top 10 MVP candidates.
For rating the best performances the following 2 main criteria will be used to determine the ranking.
1. Context matters more than just the box score so when and how the points were scored is important. If the player was clutch in the 4th quarter or if the game was close or if there was a comeback then the player will earn extra points. If a player is on fire and gets his points in just 3 quarters then they will also get bonus points. The opponent also matters so if there are two similar performances then the difficulty of opponent will make the difference.
2. The player's team must have won the game to qualify for a Top 10 performance. 3 of the very best performances of the season came in losses so unfortunately they won't be considered in this list.
Kemba Walker had the most points by a player this season, a Career High 60 in a heartbreaking overtime loss to the 76ers. What made the performance even more impressive was that he had All NBA defender Jimmy Butler all over him for the whole game and if Jimmy didn't hit the game winning 3 pointer then this would have been the performance of the season.
James Harden had the most ridiculous line of the season a 54 Point, 13 Assist and 8 Rebound triple double in a tight loss in overtime to the Washington Wizards. Harden was killing it for 3 quarters before cooling down in the 4th and letting the Wizards come back to force overtime.
Finally Kevin Durant had an epic battle with Kawhi Leonard scoring 51 points in a battle of the best from each Conference, but the Raptors came out on top behind Kawhi's season high 37 points. Durant was unstoppable and made two crazy 3's including one rainbow fadeaway from the corner right in Leonard's face to force OT. A top 5 game of the season if the Dubs could have pulled off the win.
Top 10 performances of the season (up to Dec. 31st)
1. Paul George
December 5th @ Brooklyn Nets W 114-112
47 Points, 15 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 1 Block
15-27 FG, 11-14 FT, 6-13 3P
* 25 4th Quarter Points and Game Winning 3
It's quite surprising that a 47 point game could get top spot when there were more than a handful of 50 point games to choose from. But that just shows what a great performance this was from MVP candidate Paul George.
Down 20 points in the 4th quarter, PG took over with 25 points in the last 7 minutes on 9-12 shooting. If that wasn't enough he also hit the game winning 3 with just 3.1 seconds remaining after completely pump faking Spencer Dinwiddie on the switch.
This game had everything - a huge comeback, the best 4th quarter performance of the season and a game winning 3 to cap it off. Definitely worthy of the Number 1 Performance of the Season.
2. Blake Griffin
October 23rd vs Philadelphia 76ers W 133-132 (OT)
50 Points, 14 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 1 Block
20-35 FG, 5-11 FT, 5-10 3P
*Game Winning 3 Point Play in Overtime
This game happened so early in the season that many people have forgotten it already. But man what a game this was and what a phenomenal game from Must See BG! A Career High 50 Points, 14 Rebounds and 6 Assists leading the Pistons to a thrilling 133-132 overtime victory over the Sixers.
Down 2 with 5 seconds left in overtime, Blake faked the handoff drove to the basket and made the strong finish drawing the foul with just 1.8 seconds left. He would calmly sink the game winning free throw to cap a 50 point game edging out the Sixers by 1.
3. Derrick Rose
October 31st vs Utah Jazz W 128-125
50 Points, 4 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block
19-31 FG, 8-11 FT, 4-7 3P
*6 points in the final minute including the Game Winner and Game winning Block
The feel good story of the season, Derrick Rose's inspirational 50 Point Game, showed the whole world that if you work hard enough and continue to believe, then anything is possible. For this one Halloween night he took all Derrick Rose fans in a time machine back to 2011...except he was even better, scoring more points then he ever has in an NBA game.
Dribbling, driving, cutting, slashing and ankle breaking his way to 50 points, this new version of Derrick Rose has even added a three point shot, as evidenced by his Steph Curry like 46.2% from 3 this season, including 4 of 7 on this night.
He torched the Jazz for 19 points in the 3rd and another 15 in the 4th for a 34 point second half on 13-17 shooting. To finish a perfect night, Rose scored 6 points in the final minute including the game winner AND game saving block at the buzzer. The night belonged to Derrick Rose.
4. James Harden
December 13th vs L.A Lakers W 126-111
50 Points, 10 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 2 Steals
14-26 FG, 18-19 FT, 4-12 3P
*15 Points in the 4th Quarter
Probably the most statistically impressive game on the list is James Harden's monster 50 point triple double against Lebron and the Lakers.
The Beard was big in the 4th quarter with several clutch shots including a couple step back threes, one right in Lebron James's face to the delight of the home crowd. He had 15 points in just the last 4 minutes to bust open a tight 3 point game and pull away for a 15 point victory 126-111.
The only reason this is not higher on the list is because it ended up being a comfortable victory for the Rockets so there was no drama or last minute heroics like the Top 3 performances.
5. Splash Brothers
Sharing 5th place on this list are probably the two greatest shooters ever who both recorded 50 point games in just 3 quarters! No player in the NBA can get hot and score points more quickly then these two guys.
October 24th vs Washington Wizards W 144-122
51 Points, 4 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 1 Block
15-24 FG, 10-10 FT, 11-16 3P
*51 Points and 11 3 Pointers in just 3 quarters
First up is Chef Curry who was cooking at the start of the year averaging 33 points on 55% shooting from the field, 91% on free throws and an astounding 53% on 3s at more then 6 makes per game!
On this particular night against the Wizards Curry was unconscious with 11 3 pointers and 51 points on just 24 shots in only 3 quarters of action! If Curry didn't get injured in early November then he would probably be the MVP favourite right now.
October 29th @ Chicago Bulls W 149-124
52 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Steals
18-29 FG, 2-2 FT, 14-24 3P
*NBA Record 14 3 Pointers in a game
Just 5 days later, Klay Thompson one upped Curry with 52 points in just 3 quarters, smashing Curry's 3 point record with a ridiculous 14 3 pointers in just 27 minutes of action! Klay scored 36 points with 10 3 pointers in the first half and broke the record easily with still 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. Coach Steve Kerr subbed him out with 4 minutes still remaining in the quarter and he missed the whole 4th quarter or else he could have gone for 70 or 80 points and he was on pace for over 20 Threes!
The fact that two backcourt teammates could both score 50 plus points so effortlessly in 3 quarters shows just how lethal the Warriors could be when they are clicking. And that's not even mentioning Finals MVP Kevin Durant who we will get to soon.
6. Lebron James
November 14th vs Portland Trail Blazers W 126-117
44 Points, 10 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 3 Blocks, 1 Steal
13-19 FG, 13-15 FT, 5-6 3P
*Passes Wilt Chamberlain for 5th place on the All Time Scoring List
November 18th @ Miami Heat W 113-97
51 Points, 8 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 1 Block, 2 Steals
19-31 FG, 7-10 FT, 6-8 3P
*13th Career 50 Point Game
Lebron James had two memorable game this season and it is impossible to split them. First up was a near triple double with 44 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists in a big home win against the Blazers 126-117. That night he scored 28 points in the second half to pass Wilt Chamberlain for 5th place on the All Time List, a remarkable achievement for a player still in his prime.
Then just 4 days later in his reunion trip to Miami and Cleveland, The King went to South Beach and scored a season high 51 points and 8 rebounds on 19-31 shooting. Lebron always saves something special for the most meaningful games so it was no surprise that these two games were his best of the season so far.
7. Anthony Davis
December 28th vs Dallas Mavericks W 114-112
48 Points, 17 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals
20-32 FG, 8-11 FT
*Game Winning 3 Point Play
Anthony Davis has had a remarkable individual season including six 40 point games, 2nd only to James Harden.
There was no better game from AD then his dominant performance against the Mavs, scoring 48 Points and grabbing 17 rebounds leading the Pelicans to an exciting down to the wire 114-112 victory. Davis went head to head with rookie Luka Doncic scoring 11 points down the stretch compared to Doncic's 9, including a huge 3 point play when down 1 with 43 seconds left.
8. Kevin Durant
November 26th vs Orlando Magic W 116-110
49 Points, 6 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 2 Blocks, 2 Steals
16-33 FG, 13-13 FT, 4-10 3P
*8 points in the last minute
All the drama surrounding Golden State's struggles without Curry and problems between teammates Draymond Green and Kevin Durant overshadowed the fact that KD is having one of his best seasons ever averaging his most points (28.5) since his MVP season in 2013-14 and a career high 6.2 assists per game.
He scored 40+ points 3 times in a row for the first time in his career while Curry was out including the 51 point game we mentioned earlier against the Raptors. The game before that was against the Orlando Magic and the Dubs were down 18 in the second half and down 3 with under 2 minutes left. Durant would then take over the game in the final minute with a 3 point play, a 3 pointer and 2 free throws to ice it.
9. Kyrie Irving
November 16th vs Toronto Raptors W 123-116
43 Points, 2 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 3 Steals, 1 Block
18-26 FG, 4-6 FT, 3-6 3P
*23 Points in the 4th quarter and Overtime
A battle between the 2 Eastern Conference favourites turned out to be one of the best games of the season with Kyrie Irving leading the C's to a thrilling 123-116 win in OT. Irving was unstoppable down the stretch with dribble drives, crossovers, fadeaways, 3 pointers and twistng layups for 23 points after the 4th quarter to hold off the Raptors. Irving was also a passing machine with his most assists (11) since joining the Celtics and he scored or assisted on every Celtic basket in the overtime.
10. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic
Sharing the 10th and final spot are International teammates Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.
November 5th vs Boston Celtics W 115-107
48 Points, 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists
19-30 FG, 5-5 FT, 5-11 3P
*19 Points in the 4th Quarter
Canadian sensation Jamal Murray has had two games worthy of making this list with a 48 point explosion against Kyrie and the Celtics and another 46 Points on 9-11 shooting from 3 in a recent game against the Suns.
We will focus on the first game as the quality of victory over the Celtics and the duel with Kyrie was one of the more memorable games of the season. Irving was also sensational with 31 points on 13-17 shooting but Murray was just out of this world that night. When the 'Blue Arrow' re-entered the game with 9 minutes remaining he proceeded to make his next 8 shots in a row for 19 4th quarter points to help to hold off the Celts.
October 20th vs Phoenix Suns W 119-91
35 Points, 11 Rebounds, 11 Assists, 4 Steals, 1 Block
11-11 FG, 10-11 FT, 3-3 3P, 0 Turnovers
*Perfect Game with no missed field goals and no turnovers
Nikola Jokic has had some impressive performances this season including 3 triple doubles and a host of impressive assist games. But none was better then his perfect game against the Suns in just the second game of the season. Jokic shot 11-11 from the field and 3-3 from 3 point range and had no turnovers for a 'perfect' game. Add in 11 rebounds and 11 assists and it's not everyday you can find a perfect triple double. In fact if it wasn't such an easy victory over a bad team then this performance could have made it higher up the list.
So those were the top performances of what has been an amazing season so far.
Bonus List: Top 10 MVP Candidates as of Dec. 31st
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
26.3 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.6 bpg
FG 59% FT 70% 3P 15% (0.4 3PM)
PER 28.92 (3rd) RPM 4.47 (10th)
Team Record 26-10 (Best Record in the League)
The Greek Freak is the front runner right now leading his team in every category and in the running for Defensive Player of the Year as well He has also lead the surprising Bucks to the best record in the whole league and nobody could have predicted that.
2. James Harden
33.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 8.4 apg, 2.1 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 44% FT 85% 3P 39% (4.6 3PM)
PER 28.96 (2nd) RPM 7.77 (1st)
Team Record 21-15 (4th in the West)
Nobody is playing at a higher level right now then the reigning MVP James Harden. The Rockets are rolling again with 10 wins in their last 11 games and during this streak The Beard has averaged a crazy 40 ppg!
Edit Update Jan 3rd: James Harden just got back to back 40 point triple doubles, the last one with a buzzer beating 3 over the Warriors. This probably puts him at number 1 right now.
3. Paul George
26.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.2 spg, 0.6 bpg
FG 45% FT 84% 3P 39% (3.3 3PM)
PER 24.2 (15th) RPM 6.99 (3rd)
Team Record 23-13 (3rd in the West)
PG13 has been spectacular putting up career highs across the board in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3 pointers. He has had multiple huge 40 point games and has clearly been the Thunder's best player this season while leading them to the 3rd seed in the tough West.
4. Kawhi Leonard
27.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 50% FT 86% 3P 36% (3.3 3PM)
PER 26.56 (4th) RPM (37th)
Team Record 28-11 (2nd in East)
Kawhi Leonard is quietly (as expected) having an amazing season averaging career highs in points and rebounds and leading the Raps to a virtual tie with the Bucks for best record in the league.
5. Lebron James
Los Angeles Lakers
27.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 7.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg
FG 52% FT 68% 3P 36% (2 3PM)
PER 26.54 (5th) RPM 5.22 (7th)
Team Record 21-16 (Tied 6th in the West)
Lebron was an early front runner for MVP until his recent injury and the Lakers fall to 7th place in the Conference. If L.A can get back into the top 3 seeds then expect the King to again be a leading contender for MVP.
6. Nikola Jokic
18 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.7 bpg
FG 50% FT 84% 3P 31% (1 3PM)
PER 25.07 (12th) RPM 6.62 (4th)
Team Record 24-11 (1st in the West)
The West leading Nuggets have shocked everyone this season and Nikola Jokic is leading the way. Averaging an unheard of 7.6 assists per game as a Center, The Joker has been picking apart defenses and wowing opponents and spectators with his unique passing ability.
7. Joel Embiid
26.5 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 0.5 spg, 1.9 bpg
FG 48% FT 80% 3P 29% (1.1 3PM)
PER 25.53 (9th) RPM 3.53 (20th)
Team Record 24-14 (4th in the East)
A early favourite for MVP, Joel Embiid, as expected, has slowed down a bit since the Jimmy Butler trade but he is still putting up monster numbers for the Sixers.
8. Steph Curry & Kevin Durant Tied
Golden State Warriors
Curry 18-19 Stats
28.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.4 bpg
FG 49% FT 92% 3P 45% (4.9 3PM)
PER 26.14 (7th) RPM 5.15 (8th)
Durant 18-19 Stats
28.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 6.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 1 bpg
FG 51% FT 91% 3P 37% (1.8 3PM)
PER 25.83 (8th) RPM 4.36 (11th)
Team Record 25-13 (2nd in the West)
Difficult to rank these two as they hurt each other's chances and Golden State has been very inconsistent with 13 losses already and an unimpressive 4.6 point differential. But looking at the numbers, both players are having great seasons and Curry would have been a favourite for MVP if he did not miss 11 games in November.
9. Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans
28.5 ppg, 13 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 2.6 bpg
FG 51% FT 80% 3P 32% (1 3PM)
PER 30.34 (1st) RPM 7.07 (2nd)
Team Record 17-21 (14th in the West)
Another difficult player to rank, AD probably has the best all around stats of any player and would normally be a front runner for MVP. But the Pelicans are second from last in the West with a 17-21 record when all other candidates have teams who are at least 5 games over .500. A player really can't be considered for MVP when his team is second last no matter how good his stats may be.
10. Kyrie Irving
23.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.6 spg, 0.4 bpg
FG 49% FT 85% 3P 41% (2.7 3PM)
PER 24.98 (13th) RPM 5.98 (5th)
Team Record 21-15 (5th in the East)
After a slow start, Kyrie has also been having a spectacular year, expanding his game and upping his assists, rebounds, steals and even blocks while improving his defense significantly. If the Celtics were not so up and down then he could be higher on this list.
Portland Trail Blazers
26.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.5 bpg
FG 45% FT 89% 3P 39% (3.1 3PM)
PER 24.05 (17th) RPM 3.71 (16th)
Team Record 22-16 (5th in the West)
No room for Dame who has been putting the Blazers on his back at times this season. But there are just too many strong contenders to fit Lillard in the top 10.
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