The highest scoring NBA game was on December 13th, 1983, between the Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets. The Pistons won the game in THIRD OVERTIME with 186 points. On the other hand, the Nuggets scored only two fewer points (184). The combined number of points between the two teams was 370 POINTS!
It is not that surprising that the highest scoring NBA game was between the 1983 Pistons and Nuggets.
The Pistons were much better than the Nuggets. They ended the season with a 49-33 win/loss record and were fourth in the Eastern Conference. On the other hand, the Nuggets ended the season with a 38-44 win/loss record and BARELY made it into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Western Conference.
Although the Pistons had a better win/loss record, both teams were on-par when it came to offense and defense. The Pistons averaged 117.1 points per game, the third highest number of points per game. They also had the best offensive rating in the league (111.5). However, the Pistons' defensive was below average. They had a defensive rating of 108.1 (16th of 23).
As for the Denver Nuggets, their points per game, offensive rating, and defensive rating are almost similar to the Pistons. The Nuggets had the most points per game (123.7), second-best offensive rating (111.3), and the second-worst defensive rating (112.3).
In addition, the head coach for the Nuggets at that time, Doug Moe, was literally known as the 'Godfather of Run n' Gun Offense.' This style of play emphasized fast pace and offense, and Moe himself acknowledged how his teams would not play defense.
Both teams were amazing on offense, but horrible, and at best, below average at defense. This was the perfect matchup to potentially set the record for the highest scoring NBA game.
Before getting into the stats of the highest scoring NBA game, here are the Top 3 Players for each team during that time.
21.0 Points, 11.1 Assists, 4.0 Rebounds, 2.5 Steals, and 0.4 Blocks
46.2 FG%, 33.8 3P%, 73.3 FT%
17.3 Points, 1.8 Assists, 12.2 Rebounds, 0.6 Steals, and 1.0 Blocks
53 FG%, 86.6 FT%
21.0 Points, 3.0 Assists, 4.0 Rebounds, 0.9 Steals, and 0.2 Blocks
45.9 FG%, 11.8 3P%, 81.5 FT%
26.4 Points, 5.0 Assists, 5.7 Rebounds, 1.0 Steal, and 1.2 Blocks
52.9 FG%, 14.3 3P%, 82.4 FT%
29.4 Points, 3.1 Assists, 4.8 Rebounds, 0.7 Steals, and 0.6 Blocks
55.8 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 85.2 FT%
19.8 Points, 2.3 Assists, 6.8 Rebounds, 0.8 Steals, and 0.6 Blocks
49.3 FG%, 21.1 3P%, 85.0 FT%
The Day of the Game
To no one's surprise, the Top Six Scorers in this game included five of the above players. The only player that was not a part of the Top Six was Bill Laimbeer. Laimbeer never scored much. In his career, he only averaged 12.9 points per game.
Top Six Scorers:
Kiki Vandeweghe: 51 Points
Alex English and Isiah Thomas: 47 Points
John Long: 41 points
Kelly Tripucka: 35 Points
Dan Issel: 28 Points
By halftime, each team already had 74 points. By the end of the third quarter, both teams were well above 100 points. The Pistons had 108 points, while the Nuggets had 113 points. At the end of the fourth quarter, both teams had 145 points.
Hypothetically speaking, if this were a playoff game and the game had ended here, this would still be rank second as the highest scoring NBA game, but in the playoffs.
The game would go into overtime three times. In the first OT, both teams scored 14 points. In the second OT, both teams scored 12 points. In the third and final OT, the Pistons had 15 points while the Nuggets had 13, making the Pistons the winner of the highest scoring NBA game.
Isiah Thomas, Kiki Vandeweghe, and Alex English were the only three players to play for more than fifty minutes. As said above, Thomas would score 47 points, which would be his career-high. Like Thomas, this game was also Vandeweghe's career-high as well (51 Points).
Vandeweghe and English alone scored approximately 50% of the teams' points. This also applies to Thomas and John Long as well!
Here Were the Top 5 Performances:
Kiki Vandeweghe: 51 Points, 9 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 2 Steals, and 1 Block
Isiah Thomas: 47 Points, 5 Rebounds, 17 Assists, 4 Steals, and 1 Block
Alex English: 47 Points, 12 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 1 Block
John Long: 41 Points, 6 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 3 Steals
Kelly Tripucka: 35 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal
Besides these top performances, there were also a few players that outdid themselves.
Terry Tyler (Regular Season):
8.8 Points, 3.5 Rebounds, 0.9 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 0.7 Blocks
Terry Tyler (Game):
18 Points, 8 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 4 Steals
Mike Evans (Regular Season):
8.1 Points, 1.8 Rebounds, 3.7 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 0.1 Blocks
Mike Evans (Game):
16 Points, 2 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 2 Steals
Finally, you would expect that in the highest scoring NBA game, everybody would at least have five points, but four players who got more than 10 minutes in that game had less than five points.
I'll excuse three of the four players (Cliff Levingston, Ray Tolbert, and Kent Benson) as they only had around 15 minutes, but there was one player who had 38 MINUTES and only score TWO POINTS!
In the regular season, Bill Hanzek averaged these numbers within 18.4 minutes:
5.4 Points, 2.6 Rebounds, 3.2 Assists, 0.9 Steals, and 0.2 Blocks.
His Per 36 was:
10.6 Points, 5.0 Rebounds, 6.2 Assists, 1.7 Steals, and 0.5 Blocks.
Yet somehow, in 38 minutes of playing time, he had:
2 Points, 7 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 1 Steal.
Although he exceeds expectations with rebounds and assists, how in the hell do you only score two points? He was not the only Nuggets player that was disappointing that game. T.R. Dunn played 36 minutes that game and only scored SEVEN POINTS! However, at least he scored 100% from the field (3/3).
Only TWO three-pointers were made. Isiah Thomas and Richard Anderson each scored one three-pointer.
Kelly Tripucka scored all 12 of the Detroit Piston's points during the second overtime.
here were 117 free-throw attempts.
Tripucka just wanted to end the game so that they could eat. "The game lasted so long. We were wondering if we could find a place to eat after the game.
Seven Records were Broken During the Game:
Most points scored by two teams
Most points scored by one team
Most points scored by a losing team
Most field goals by two teams
Most field goals by one team
Most assists by one team
Most players in one game with 40+ points
If we exclude games that went to overtime, the highest NBA game was on November 2nd, 1990. Once again, the Denver Nuggets were involved in a high-scoring NBA game. Also, like last time, they lost.
They were up against the Golden State Warriors. The Nuggets scored 158 while the Warriors scored 162. Both teams combined for 320 points. Although that is still a lot, that's still 50 points less than the game between the Nuggets and Pistons.