The Whiteboard: Power ranking the best 50-point games of the 2021-22 NBA season

Atlanta Hawks, The Whiteboard

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Offenses have, in general, had a tough time this season and it’s about more than the endless shuffling of lineups as teams navigate a surge in COVID cases and the resultant protocol-related absences. Scoring is even down for some of the league’s most elite scorers.

Last season, 15 players averaged 25 or more points per game. So far this season, just nine players have surpassed that threshold. Last season, in a shortened 72-game schedule, we saw 14 50-point games. This year, with the halfway point of a full 82-game schedule fast approaching, we’ve seen just four.

However, things may be turning the corner in that regard. We saw just one 50-point game in the first two months of the season but we’ve seen three in the last four weeks, including two in the last two days. Creating a definitive ranking with just four data points leaves plenty of room for argument but here’s how I’d rank the 50-point games we’ve seen so far this season.

Who has had the best 50-point game so far this NBA season?

4. Jaylen Brown — 50 points vs. Orlando Magic, Jan. 2, 2021

Brown put up an incredibly impressive stat line against the Magic this weekend — 50 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks on a 76.9 true shooting percentage. However, relative to the rest of this group it gets slightly downgraded because it was the only 50-point performance this season to come in overtime (where Brown scored 3 points and added a rebound, 2 assists and a steal.) In addition, Brown turned the ball over 7 times. It was a fantastic game, but not quite as fantastic as…

3. Kevin Durant — 51 points vs. Detroit Pistons, Dec. 12, 2021

Durant hung 51 on the Pistons in the middle of last month, the ninth 50-point game of his career. He added 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 blocks, however, it also came with 5 turnovers and the lowest true shooting percentage of any of the 50-point games we’ve seen this season. A mark of 67.8 is still phenomenal on 31 shots from the field and 15 from the stripe but we’re splitting hairs among the best of the best.

2. Stephen Curry — 50 points vs. Atlanta Hawks, Nov. 8, 2021

Curry was the first player to break 50 this season, the 10th such game in his career. Scoring and scoring efficiently is what Curry is best known for but his well-rounded contributions in this game put him ahead of Durant and Brown. He added 10 assists with just 2 turnovers and also managed 4 steals, with his points coming on a 74.1 true shooting percentage. By Game Score, a single game box score metric that incorporates both positive and negative stats, this was the second-best game of Curry’s entire career.

1. Trae Young — 56 points vs. Portland Trail Blazers, Jan. 3, 2021

Young had what was, undoubtedly, the performance of the year so far. It was the highest-scoring game of the season and he also did it on an 85.9 true shooting percentage, making 10-of-14 from inside the arc, 7-of-12 from beyond it and 15-of-15 at the free-throw line. What makes the game so impressive is that he wasn’t just scoring. Young also added 14 assists and 4 rebounds with just 4 turnovers. There have been just 23 50-point, 10-assist games in NBA history and among those, Young’s came on the third-highest true shooting percentage and with the ninth-highest assist to turnover ratio. Even among the best of the best, this was an all-time performance.

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