For fans who like their games to be replete with scoring outbursts, the turn of the year has been a bountiful of blessings. Given the increased frequency with which leather and nylon meet, 40 has become the new 30. There was Luka Doncic’s 51-point masterpiece on the very first day of 2023, actually the third time he would hit the half-century mark in his last five outings. It coincided with Paul George’s 45-point effort in a losing cause. Two nights later, 38-year-old LeBron James followed up a 47-point performance with 43 piece. And his wasn’t even the highest. His and Joel Embiid’s 42 were topped by Klay Thompson’s 54 and DeMar DeRozan’s 44.
There would be more scoring binges in the interim. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 55 was followed by Kevin Durant’s 44, Lauri Markkanen’s 49, and Zach LaVine’s 41. To date, however, the 2022-23 season’s crowning number is the 71 put up by Donovan Mitchell to eclipse DeRozan’s aforementioned mark in the same contest. Naturally, the Cavaliers celebrated as if they claimed the championship, in large measure also because they had to go through the wringer to get the W. The celebrator had to miss the second of two free throws with 4.1 seconds left in regulation, grab the rebound, and then bank in the game-tying shot to force overtime. He then scored 13 more to clinch victory.
Needless to say, social media exploded in the aftermath. Mitchell’s pop-a-shot-like showing is the eighth-best in the annals of the National Basketball Association, and the highest since Kobe Bryant went for 81 16 years ago. Because it came off a close match, however, a Last Two Minute Report was issued by the league office. And guess what? The post-mortem deemed him guilty of a lane violation prior to his carom-score combine to trigger an extra period. In other words, his production should have stayed at 56, by sheer happenstance the same marks posted by James and Kyrie Irving as Cavaliers records.
In any case, Mitchell came down to earth the very next time he burned rubber. Although the Cavaliers won again, he posted a very mortal 20 on six-of-20 shooting from the field. Nothing to crow about, and certainly not in this day and age of eye-popping figures on the board. That said, no front-office retrospective — or prospective on-court bombs — can take the luster off his milestone. Even at the breakneck speed with which points are being churned out, his remains a stratospheric achievement. He is right to be proud of it.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.