Recently we took a look at the top 5 individual performances by a Dallas Maverick. While the results of that list were not what I expected, when it comes to the best game by anyone during the 2018-2019 NBA Season there are few surprises. Regardless, some of the individual feats we have seen this season are among some of the best of the Century.
In order to determine the best performances we will use a Game Score number. Game Score is a big long formula that is designed to give a measure of a player’s productivity for a single game, think of it as a total fantasy points type score. Thanks to Basketball Reference’s providing Game Scores for every game since 1983 we can have an objective measure of the best single Playoff game performances.
In order to spread the love a little bit, each player can only appear once on this list. Each player will have their top game show and then their next best games are passed over until I found 10 unique players to compile this list.
10. Kevin Durant – 42.2 Game Score
November 29, 2018
Golden State Warriors at Toronto Raptors
GSW 128 – TOR 131
This was one of 22 50-point performances by an NBA player this season.
Spoiler alert, KD is the only Golden State Warrior to appear on this list. This is for a few reasons. The collective greatness of talent on the Warriors limits the ability of one player to take over for the duration of a game. For one quarter it can be KD, then another quarter Steph Curry, with Klay Thompson liable to go off at any time. There are also times when the Warriors are so great that they blow out their opponents in 3 quarters and then the stars of the team are able to rest for the lest of the game, limiting their Game Score number.
But on this night, with Steph Curry sitting out, Kevin Durant was scoring early and often, amassing 51 points in a loss to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors. He was rebounding, assisting, and shooting efficiently from all 3 levels. He got an extra boost in minutes due to his game-tying corner 3 over Kawhi Leonard with 8 seconds left forcing overtime.
This was the 17th overall best game, one of of 22 50 points performances throughout the season by 13 different players.
9. Damian Lillard – 43.0 Game Score
March 7, 2019
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
POR 121 – OKC 129
I love these battles between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is one of the most openly aggressive trash talker in the entire NBA and at one point throughout this season it was Lillard who was the subject of his ridicule saying “I have been busting his ass for years!” while Lillard was standing at the free-throw line. Since that point, this series has been all Lillard. There is no better example of this than March 7th when the Blazers traveled to OKC to take on the Thunder.
No, the Blazers did not win this overtime showdown, but that was no fault of Damian Lillard. Not only was he running the Blazers offense to perfection with only 3 turnovers and 9 assists but he was racking up Game Score points on defense as well with his steal and 2 blocked shots.
It was not his best shooting from deep, 3 of 10 from long range, but he was getting to the hoop at will against one of the best defenses in the NBA.
This performance by Lillard was the 15th best overall game this season and his 3rd best Game Score of his career behind his 47.9 in 2015-2016 and a 48.6 in 2016-2017.
8. Paul George – 43.4 Game Score
February 11, 2019
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Portland Trail Blazers
OKC 120 -POR 111
Russell Westbrook was coming into this game with 9 consecutive triple-doubles and would make it 10 in a row in this game but it was Paul George’s monster 47 point triple-double that makes this list. Playing 43 minutes in regulation, Paul George was terrorizing the Blazers all night.
The Portland defense could not do anything about George’s penetration, leaving shooters wide open on the perimeter and PG13 found them. When they backed off him trying to protect the paint, PG was dead-eye from 3-point range knocking down 8 of 13 attempts.
This was the 13th best overall game this season and by far Paul George’s best Game Score of his career.
7. Kemba Walker – 43.7 Game Score
November 17, 2018
Charlotte Hornets vs. Philadelphia 76ers
CHH 119 – PHI 122
When Kemba Walker is in the zone, there is no defense that can stop him. This was evident in November in Philadelphia when Kemba went off for 60 points against the 76ers in a close loss. This is much of the same for Kemba, having an incredible individual performance for a team with not much support that just cannot win.
Kemba Walker may just be the quickest offensive player in the league. He will cross over, fly by defenders, and pull up on a dime before they know whats happening. He has a never ending motor and is relentless when he smells blood.
Having to try to do it all, Kemba wound up with 9 turnovers in this game. Without so many turnovers he could have easily found himself near the very top of the list. This was the 3rd highest scoring total in the NBA this season, the 11th best overall game, and Kemba’s best Game Score of his career.
6. LeBron James – 44.3 Game Score
November 14, 2018
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
LAL 126 – POR 117
This may have been a disappointing season for LeBron James, not making the playoffs, playing only 55 games all year, and alienating all his teammates by saying he would basically trade them all to get Anthony Davis.
But on November 14th in Portland LeBron was at his best. In typical LeBron James fashion he was efficient across the board and filled up every single column in the stat sheet. Whats even more impressive compared to the other games we have already seen on this list, LeBron did all of his work in just 36 minutes.
Even more impressive, this is the game where LeBron passed Wilt Chamberlain to become the 5th leading scorer in NBA history. He kept climbing the list throughout the season, now sitting at 4th all-time behind Kobe Bryan, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If he can stay healthy and play more than the 55 games he did this season, LeBron has a great chance of climbing all the way to the top and going down as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
This was the 9th best overall game this season and LeBron’s 6th best Game Score of his career.
5. Anthony Davis – 44.7 Game Score
January 9, 2019
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
NOP 140 – CLE 124
in Just 37 minutes Anthony Davis stuffed the stat sheet including 4 blocks and 2 steals to have one of the best games of the year and the 5th best Game Score of his career. Now it did come against one of the worst defenses in league history in the Cleveland Cavaliers, but when you put up numbers like these, who cares.
Davis’ efficiency in this game was insane, he made his only three point attempt, knocked down 15 of 16 free throws, and had only 1 turnover to go along with 7 assists.
Just a few weeks after this game Anthony Davis requested a trade from Pelicans and his season took a sharp turn for the worse. Of course no trade happened throughout the season and Davis was stuck watching the 4th quarter of many games from the bench. It is very likely that he has played his last game for the Pelicans despite being under contract for another season.
There will be many trade offers made form teams trying to secure AD for their team and whoever can pull it off will get a guy with the potential to put up monster games like these on a nightly basis. Anthony Davis had the 7th and 8th best overall games this season and is one of only two players to have at least 2 games inside the top 10.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge – 45.0 Game Score
January 10, 2019
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
SAS 154 – OKC 147
You don’t usually think of LaMarcus Aldridge as a player capable of putting up 50 point games but in San Antonio, against the Thunder, Aldridge was unstoppable in a double overtime win.
Aldridge made 20 of 33 shots, all 16 of his free throws, and added 4 blocks. There is nothing flashy about the way Aldridge goes about his work. there are a lot of mid-range fadeaways, post-ups, and pick-and-roll floaters. It is not going to make any highlight reels but it is efficient, effective, and consistent.
This was the 6th best overall game this season and Aldridge’s best game score ever by almost 10 points.
3. Nikola Jokic – 45.8 Game Score
October 20, 2018
Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns
DEN 119 – PHO 91
Nikola Jokic had the lowest point total of any player on this list but it is almost impossible to have a more efficient game than the one he had in Phoenix in October. In just the third game of the 2018-2019 season, and in just 31 minutes, Jokic made all 11 of his field goals including 3 threes, made 10 of 11 free throws, had 11 assists with not a single turnover, and added a block and 4 steals.
Jokic’s playmaking out of the post almost unheard of, he can find his teammates anywhere of the floor with a flick of the wrist. The 7.3 assists that Jokic averaged this season is third all-time by a Center, behind only the great Wilt Chamberlain.
We have yet to see if Jokic can take over a game with his scoring in a big moment but his overall skill set has already established him as one of the best Centers in the NBA at just 24 years of age.
This was the 5th best overall game this season and easily the best game of Jokic’s career.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 50.4 Game Score
March 17, 2019
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
MIL 125 – PHI 130
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, has fulfilled his potential and has reached absolute BEAST status. He runs the floor like a deer, handles the ball with the agility of a guard, and can slam it home more dominantly than anyone since Shaq. If you are standing in the paint with Giannis barreling towards you, you might as well just get out of the way and give him what he wants.
Everyone always says if Giannis gets a jump shot than he will truly be unstoppable. To that I would argue that he has proven to be unstoppable without it. He knows his strengths and perfected the skills necessary to highlight those strengths. By improving his ball handling and strength over his first 6 seasons he has given himself the ability to get to the rim at will where nobody can stop him. Defenders think they have good position, then Giannis uses those go-go-gadget arms to reach over the top and slam on their heads.
This was the 2nd best overall game this season, the 19th best Game Score since 1983, and makes Giannis one of only 17 players to post a Game Score of 50+ since 1983.
1. James Harden – 52.2 Game Score
February 28, 2019
Houston Rockets vs. Miami Heat
HOU 121 – MIA 118
It is still unclear who will be 2018-2019 NBA MVP but when it comes to the award for the best game of the season, that goes to James Harden. His outburst on February 28th in a close win over the Miami Heat in Houston makes a great case for him taking home his second consecutive MVP trophy.
In this game, Harden was rebounding, assisting, making plays on defense, and of course, scoring in bunches. 58 points on just 32 shots from the field made this not only one of the highest scoring outputs this season but also one of the most efficient thanks to his 18-18 performance from the free-throw line. The hardest part about defending Harden is trying to do so without sending him to the charity strip because once he is there, it is almost automatic at 88% for the year.
James Harden not only had the top game this season but he also had 4 of the overall top 10 games, putting up game scores of 52.2, 48.5, 46, and 44.2. This consistent dominance has helped contribute to the highest single season scoring average (36.1 ppg) since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 points per game in 1987.
Not only was this the best performance of the 2018-2019 season but it was also the 6th best Game Score since the year 2000, 11th best since 1983, and Harden’s 2nd best Game Score ever behind his 60 point triple double in January of 2018.
2018-2019 Top 10 Performances Summary