The 2019-20 NBA season had its moments before play was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Milwaukee Bucks established themselves as the best team in the league by leading the team standings from start to the day the season was paused. The Los Angeles Lakers asserted their might as the best team in the West and were chasing the Bucks when play was halted. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers were starting to play together when the action was stopped. Over in the East, the defending champions Toronto Raptors were surging in the team standings before the break.
Individually, we saw some incredible display of basketball wizardry by some of the NBA’s biggest stars. While the season is temporarily suspended, let us look back at the best individual performances during the 2019-20 season:
1. Damian Lillard 61 points on MLK Day
Portland’s Damian Lillard delivered the most memorable Martin Luther Day game in the history of the NBA during the 2019-20 season. Dame scored 61 points in Portland’s 129-124 win over the Golden State Warriors on 1/20/20. Earlier in the season, Lillard scored 60 points against the Brooklyn Nets to set a new career-high and most points scored ever by a Blazers player. He broke those records on MLK Day 2020.
Lillard’s 61-point outburst against the Warriors was the most points scored by any player during the 2019-20 season. He made 11 three-pointers which are both a career-high for him and a franchise record for the Blazers. Lillard also set the team record for most free throws made in a single game without a miss as he went 16-16 from the stripe. The Blazers had a very inconsistent 2019-20 season but if there was any bright spot this year, it was Lillard, who proved that he is one of the NBA’s best scorers.
2. James Harden 60 points vs Hawks 11/30/2019
James Harden started the 2019-20 season like a man possessed. The Beard was an unstoppable scorer early on in the season and he was just raining points on every team the Rockets faced. On November 30, 2019, the Rockets massacred the Atlanta Hawks 158-11 as Harden scored 60 points in just 31 minutes of action. Harden joined Kobe Bryant and Klay Thompson as the only players in the last 25 years to score at least 60 points in just three quarters.
Harden shot 16-24 from the field, including 8-14 from the three-point range and 20-23 from the free-throw line. He left the game with his team comfortably ahead at 127-73 at the end of the third period. His 24 shots attempts are the fewest for a 60-point game in the history of the NBA and he came one point short of his career-high on a night where he made only 8 three-pointers.
3. Damian Lillard 60 points vs Nets 11/8/2019
Damian Lillard is back at number three for his second 60-point game of the season. But this one was bitter-sweet because the Brooklyn Nets beat Dame’s Blazers 119-115 to deny them their first home win of the season. The 60-point game erased Lillard’s previous career-high of 59 points which he set in 2017 and it was also a franchise record for Portland.
Lillard shot 19-33 from the floor and made seven out of 16 three-point baskets while converting on all of his 15 foul shots. However, Lillard’s backcourt partner C.J. McCollum struggled with eight points on 4-19 shooting. McCollum missed 14 out of his first 16 shot attempts while Rodney Hood left the game in the first quarter with a back injury. Although Dame’s one-man show came up short, it was still only the third 60-point game this season,
4. James Harden 59 points vs Wizards 10/30/2019
James Harden was one point away from another 60-point game when the Rockets defeated the Washington Wizards 159-158 in one of the highest-scoring regulation games in the history of the NBA. The teams combined for a total of 317 points, third-highest ever for a game decided in regulation. Both teams combined to hit a total of 43 three-point baskets in the shootout.
Russell Westbrook finished with a triple-double while Washington’s Bradley Beal scored 46 points but it was Harden who shone that night. The Beard went 18-32 from the field, hit six out of 17 three-pointers, and sank 17 out of 18 foul shots while also dishing off nine assists in 37 minutes of floor time. After Bradley Beal tied the game at 158, Harden one of two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to give the Rockets the victory.
5. James Harden 55 points vs Cavaliers 12/11/2019
James Harden is back on the list with a 55-point explosion against the Cleveland Cavaliers last December 11, 2019. The Rockets had only played 24 games at this point and this was already his 4th 50-point game of the season and the 10th time he had scored at least 40 points this year. But while scoring 50 was no longer a surprise for a player like Harden, this one was special.
Harden shot 20-38 from the floor and made 10 out of 18 three-pointers. He entered the game averaging a dozen free throw attempts per outing but in this particular contest, Harden shot and made only five free throws. The only player in the history of the NBA to score at least 50 points with five or fewer free throws made was Rick Barry. Harden’s 55 against the Cavs also made him only the third player after Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, to have at least one 50-point game against 15 different NBA teams.
6. Bradley Beal 55 points vs Bucks 02/24/2020
The Washington Wizards didn’t have John Wall for the 2019-20 season due to injury. That left his backcourt mate Bradley Beal to carry the majority of the Wizards’ scoring load. Beal’s herculean efforts were on full display in back to back games last February. After scoring 53 points in their previous game, Beal put up a career-high 55 points in a losing effort against the Milwaukee Bucks.
He finished the night on 19-35 shooting, was 8-13 from three-point land, and 9-10 from the free-throw line. While the Wizards absorbed a 134-137 overtime loss to the best team in the league, Beal became the first player in Washington Wizards franchise history to record back to back 50-point games. Since the Wizards’ played on back to back nights, Beal also became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to put up 50-points in back to back nights.
7. Kyrie Irving 54 points vs Bulls 01/31/2020
Kyrie Irving had a rough 2019-20 season plagued with intrigues and an injury which forced him to miss the rest of the year. But Uncle Drew didn’t end his season without leaving us some of the best individual performances of the year. Less than one week after Kobe Bryant’s tragic death, Kyrie Irving channeled his Mamba Mentality and dropped 54 points against the Chicago Bulls.
Irving mesmerized the crowd as he ended the first half with a perfect 10-10 field goal shooting which included four three-pointers. He finished the game on 19-23 shooting from the floor while missing just two out of nine three-point attempts and one out of 10 free throws. With his efficiency, Irving became the third player in NBA history after Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan to shoot at least 80% from the field in a 50-point game.
8. James Harden 54 points vs Magic 12/13/2019
We’re only at #7 and this is James Harden’s fourth game in this list. As we said earlier, he had a torrid start to the 2019-20 and no matter what kind of defense teams threw at him, there was no way of slowing him down. This was no exception as Harden was coming off a 55-point game against the Cavaliers and still, Orlando couldn’t slow him down in a win over the Orlando Magic.
It was another efficient 50-point game for Harden as he shot 19-31 from the floor, 10-13 from behind the three-point region, and was a perfect 6-6 from the foul line. Harden also made 10 three-point baskets against the Cavs, making him only the second player in NBA history to have made at least 10 three-pointers in back to back games. He also moved past Paul Pierce on this night for 8th in the NBA’s All-Time three-pointers made list.
9. Bradley Beal 53 points vs Bulls 2/23/2020
As we said earlier, Bradley Beal had 50 point games in back to back nights. Before he scored 55 against the Bucks, he torched the Chicago Bull for 53, which was a career-high for him at that time. But Beal’s lights-out performance wasn’t enough for the Wizards to beat the Chicago Bulls who prevailed 126-117 on February 23, 2020.
Beal shot 15-27 from the field and was 5-11 from behind the three-point area. He became only the third player in Washington Wizards history to have multiple 50-point games after Bernard King and Arenas. But his efforts went for naught as Bulls’ rookie Colby White scored a career-high 33 points during the game as Chicago made Beal the first player in the 2019-20 season to lose a game despite scoring 50 points.
10. D’Angelo Russell 52 points vs Warriors 11/8/2019
Long before he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. D’Angelo Russell scored a career-high 52 points against them. D-Lo was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Kevin Durant and he was expected to provide the Dubs with firepower with KD, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry out. He did just that on November 8, 2019, in a game where well, the Warriors lost 119-125.
Russell shot 19-37 from the floor, went 7-17 from long distance, and was one rebound shy of a double-double. He scored the Warriors’ final 14 points in regulation and seven out of their nine points in overtime but D-Lo’s career night wasn’t enough to win the game. Russell’s stint in the Bay Area didn’t last a season. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins at the trade deadline.