Since the 1985-86 season,* 106 players have produced 457 45-point games. The most recent, of course, was Ben Gordon’s 45-point outburst against the Nuggets on Wednesday.
*As far back as Basketball-Reference’s single-game records go
Gordon’s night drew some national attention, but because Gordon was once a high scorer who already scored 48 points in a game and landed in the 40s or high 30s several other times, nobody went wild. To many, Gordon was just another volume scorer doing what volume scorers sometimes do.
But I don’t think most NBA observers have realized how wide the gulf is between how Gordon once scored and how he scores now. Gordon is no longer a serious scoring threat – and that just makes his 45-point game all the more astonishing.
The average 45-point game came from someone who averaged 27.08 points per game that season. Gordon averages less than half that (12.46 points per game). At the moment, that’s the second-lowest season average for someone who scored 45 points in a game in the sample:
For his 53-point outburst, Tony Delk became somewhat of a folk hero. Although I understand Gordon’s big games with Chicago and huge contract with Detroit will prevent him from getting similar recognition, at this point, his 45-point game might be even more unlikely than Delk reaching the level (though, Delk scoring an extra eight points certainly adds to the mystique of that game).
Because the Pistons’ season isn’t over, Gordon’s 45-point game carries more weight on his scoring average than the other players’ big games do on theirs, and in the shortened season, that will still be somewhat true at year’s end.
The Pistons have 20 games remaining. If Gordon plays in all those and scores 238 or fewer points – an average of 11.9 points per game – he’ll pass Delk. Before Wednesday, Gordon was averaging 11.5 points per game.
Maybe Wednesday was the turning point of Gordon’s Pistons tenure, though I doubt it. Maybe it was a complete aberration, which I expect. We’ll know soon enough.
Either way, Gordon’s 45-point game should receive greater recognition for the incredible spectacle it was.