2000s: Memorable NBA Performances
Bryant scored 81 of the Lakers' 122 points in a victory against the Raptors, the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point performance in 1962. Bryant shot 28-of-46 from the floor and scored 55 points in the second half. "That was something to behold," Phil Jackson said. "It was another level. I've seen some remarkable games, but I've never seen one like that before."
The Cavs' 109-107 double-overtime victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals could've made our list of Best Games of the Decade, but it belongs in this category just as much for, if not more so, LeBron James' exploits. He scored Cleveland's final 25 points and 29 of its last 30 to put the Cavs on the brink of their first NBA Finals appearance (they clinched that berth in Game 6). James finished with 48 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
The 76ers, a heavy underdog, stunned the host Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals thanks to Iverson's tour de force.He finished with 48 points, including a seven-point flurry in a 58-second stretch of overtime, as Philadelphia won 107-101 to hand the Lakers their first loss of the playoffs. The Lakers went on to win the next four games, but Iverson's Game 1 heroics (which overshadowed Shaquille O'Neal's 44-point, 20-rebound outing) may be the enduring memory from the series.
McGrady scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds to rally the Rockets past the Spurs 81-80. Houston trailed 74-64 with just over a minute remaining, but McGrady nailed four three-pointers down the stretch, including the game-winner with 1.7 seconds remaining. ''For all those fans who left the game early ... ya'll missed a great game,'' McGrady said.
Already in a 2-0 hole in the NBA Finals, Miami trailed Dallas 89-76 midway through the fourth quarter of Game 3. But Wade scored 12 of his 42 points during a game-ending 22-7 run as Miami won 98-96, the first of its four consecutive victories en route to the franchise's first championship. Wade was named Finals MVP after averaging 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
On his 28th birthday, O'Neal erupted for 61 points and 23 rebounds in the Lakers' 123-103 victory against the Clippers. It was the first 60-20 game since Wilt Chamberlain in 1969. Before the game, the Clippers had denied O'Neal's request for a dozen or so extra complimentary tickets. "Don't ever make me pay for tickets," Shaq said afterward.
Anthony matched George Gervin's NBA record for points in a quarter when he exploded for 33 in the third period of Denver's 116-105 victory against Minnesota. Carmelo scored 26 consecutive Nuggets points at one juncture, and finished with 45 points to go with a team-high 11 rebounds.
In his seventh NBA game, the Bucks' Jennings scored 55 points in a 129-125 victory against the Warriors in Milwaukee. The 6-foot-1 Jennings overcame a scoreless first quarter to finish three points shy of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time rookie record. Jennings erupted for 29 points on 12-of-13 shooting in the third quarter. Golden State coach Don Nelson called it ''probably the best rookie performance I've ever witnessed in 30-some years of coaching.''
Kobe scored 65, 50, 60 and 50 points in consecutive games, the second-most 50-point games in a row behind Wilt Chamberlain's seven. Bryant's streak ended when he finished with 43 points against the Warriors. He ended the 2006-07 season with a team-record 10 50-point games, again the most by a player since Chamberlain, who had 30 in 1962-63.
Shaq flirted with the first NBA Finals quadruple-double in finishing with 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks to lead the Lakers past the 76ers in Game 2, the first of four consecutive victories for L.A. O'Neal would win the second of three consecutive Finals MVPs.
Two years after Shaq's all-around gem in an NBA Finals game, Duncan also narrowly missed a quadruple-double. With Duncan going for 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks, the Spurs scored a championship-clinching victory against the Nets in Game 6.
Allen Iverson and Vince Carter
Iverson vs. Carter in a 2001 second-round series was a riveting duel. After Philadelphia's Iverson erupted for 54 points in Game 2, Toronto's Carter responded with 50 points in Game 3. Carter made his first eight three-pointers, all in the first half, and tied the NBA playoff record with nine overall. Iverson answered back with 52 points in Game 5, just after receiving the regular-season MVP trophy in a pregame ceremony. The 76ers and Raptors went all the way to Game 7, in which Carter missed a last-second shot in Toronto's 88-87 loss.
The performance itself wasn't memorable, but the moment surely was. In his final NBA game (we think), Jordan finished with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes in the Wizards' 107-87 loss at Philadelphia. The 40-year-old Jordan left to a standing ovation with 1:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Take a bow if you knew that Sessions holds the decade record for most assists in a game. In the penultimate game of a rookie season spent mostly in the D-League, the second-round pick handed out a franchise-record 24 assists (to go with 20 points) in Milwaukee's 151-135 loss to Chicago. Sessions produced the first 20-20 performance in Bucks history.
No, this isn't a memorable single-game performance, but a series of them for a Rockets team that put together a 22-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history. With complementary players like Rafter Alston, Luis Scola and Carl Landry supporting stars Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming (before he got hurt), the Rockets went unbeaten for seven weeks. And they sustained the streak even after losing Yao (foot surgery) for the season 12 games into it. The streak was snapped March 18 in a 94-74 home loss to the Celtics.
Kobe outscored the Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters and sat the rest of the way in the Lakers' 112-90 victory in Los Angeles. Bryant, who scored 30 points in the third quarter, made 18-of-31 from the field and 22-of-25 at the free-throw line in 33 minutes.
Webber had career highs of 51 points and 26 rebounds in the Kings' 93-91 overtime loss to the Pacers in Sacramento. Webber hit 24-of-47 from the field, though he missed two shots late in overtime and failed to score in the extra period. His performance punctuated a memorable week at Arco Arena that started with Allen Iverson's 46-point outburst in Philadelphia's OT victory and continued with Tony Delk's 53-point explosion in Phoenix's OT loss.
LeBron James and Paul Pierce
In a duel that brought back memories of Dominique Wilkins vs. Larry Bird 20 years earlier, LeBron scored 45 points and Pierce countered with 41 in Game 7 of a second-round series between Boston and Cleveland. The Celtics prevailed 97-92 on their way to winning their first championship since 1986.
Garnett, on his 28th birthday, delivered 32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals to send the Timberwolves past the Kings 83-80 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. KG not only led Minnesota to the conference finals for the first time in the franchise's 15-year history, but also, in scoring 13 consecutive Minnesota points in the fourth quarter, answered critics who questioned his ability to take over in crunch time.
In the Wizards' 147-141 overtime victory at the Lakers, Arenas scored a franchise-record 60 points, reeled off 14 consecutive Washington points in the extra period and shot nearly as many free throws (27) as the entire Lakers team (30).
Paul came within three steals of a quadruple-double twice in a two-week span last season. The one highlighted here is the first of those games, at Dallas, where the 6-foot point guard recorded 33 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and seven steals against one of the NBA's triple-double masters, Jason Kidd, in New Orleans' 104-97 victory. Paul had the first 30-10-10-7 game since Alvin Robertson in 1986.
Antawn Jamison and Kobe Bryant
The Warriors' Jamison scored 51 points for the second consecutive game and Kobe matched that total in Golden State's 125-122 overtime victory against the Lakers in Oakland. It marked the first time two players scored 50 points in a game since Wilt Chamberlain (63 points) and Elgin Baylor (51) on Dec. 14, 1962.