Lights Out: The Highest-Scoring NBA Games of All Time in the Regular Season
The highest-scoring NBA games may have broken the scoreboard if they went any further.
There was no room left on these scoresheets. The pencils ran out of lead. Pens ran out of ink.
But they certainly were a whole lot of fun regardless.
We’re reflecting on the highest-scoring NBA games of all time at the team level. Want to take a look back at Philadelphia Warriors star Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls and the NBA record individual performances of all time? Click here.
Highest-Scoring Game and Most Points by One Team:
Detroit Pistons 186, Denver Nuggets 184 (3 OT); Dec. 13, 1983
Not only did the Pistons set the record for most points scored by one team in a regular-season game, but this contest also holds the mark for most total points by both teams. And the box score reads like an absolute doozy; four players dropped more than 40 points and Kiki VanDeWeghe led the way with 51 and Alex English added 47 for the Nuggets in a losing effort in triple overtime. Isiah Thomas played 52 minutes and had 47 points, 17 assists and four steals for the Pistons, who were far from their glory years and lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to the New York Knicks. Still in the early days of the 3-point line, there were only four 3s attempted in the entire game (both teams were 1 for 2 from behind the arc).
Highest-Scoring Game and Most Points by One Team in the 21st Century:
Sacramento Kings 176, Los Angeles Clippers 175 (2 OT); Feb. 24, 2023
This is also the second-highest scoring game in league history. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk teamed up for 42 and 45 points, respectively, as the Kings outlasted the Clippers in double overtime in Russell Westbrook’s debut back in Los Angeles. Kawhi Leonard poured in 44 points while going 6 of 9 from 3-point range. The Clips went 26 of 45 (57.8%) from deep as a team, becoming the only team in the previous 40 years to shoot at least 60.0% from 2, 55.0% from 3 and 85.0% on free throws in a loss (via @OptaSTATS). Paul George added 34 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, while Westbrook had 17 points and 14 assists. This was the first game in NBA history to go into overtime tied at 150 or more.
Highest-Scoring Game in Regulation:
Golden State Warriors 162, Denver Nuggets 158; Nov. 2, 1990
This bout was quite the way to start Denver and Golden State’s 1990-91 season. Chris Mullin (38 points) and Tim Hardaway (32 points and 18 assists), who also played for the Miami Heat, Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers over his career, were the leading scorers for Warriors. The team from the San Francisco/Oakland area would eventually beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers. Orlando Woolridge had a team-high 37 for Denver. It was a close-fought battle the entire way with both teams scoring between 36-44 points in each quarter. Only six 3s were made in the entire game.
Most Points by One Team in Regulation:
Boston Celtics 173, Minneapolis Lakers 139; Feb. 27, 1959/Phoenix Suns 173, Denver Nuggets 143, Nov. 10, 1990
The Lakers struggled to keep up with the Celtics in the early days of their rivalry. Boston put up the most points in a single game in regulation before the Suns tied in 31 years later. The Celtics also swept the Lakers in the 1959 NBA Finals. It’s hardly a surprise to see the 1990-91 Nuggets on this list again. Under Paul Westhead, they adopted the run-and-gun offense that led to huge success for the coach at Loyola Marymount. It didn’t quite work out in the pros and the Nuggets became affectionately known as the “Enver Nuggets” because they didn’t have a “D.” They allowed a league-high 130.8 points per game in 1990-91.
Highest-Scoring Game of the 21st Century in Regulation:
Houston Rockets 159, Washington Wizards 158; Oct. 30, 2019
You knew we had to get to these Houston Rockets eventually. Of Houston’s 103 field goal attempts on the night, 54 came from 3. 2018 NBA MVP James Harden finished two points away from his career high with 59 points and Russell Westbrook put up a triple-double in the one-point game. Bradley Beal had 46 points for the Washington Wizards, while four scored in double figures off the bench.
Most Points by One Team in Regulation in the 21st Century:
Denver Nuggets 168, Seattle SuperSonics 116; March 16, 2008
Carmelo Anthony, who would go on to play for the Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and Lakers, led a balanced attack with 26 points, while Allen Iverson added 24 points for a talented Nuggets team that would win 50 games in the Western Conference. Marcus Camby finished with a 13-15-10 triple-double and Kenyon Martin, who was in his fourth season in Denver after coming over from the New Jersey Nets, chipped in with 23. The Nuggets put up 48 points in the first quarter, 43 in the third and 41 in the fourth. A rookie named Kevin Durant had 23 points for the SuperSonics, who would move to Oklahoma City the following season.
Animations by Paul Connors.