In NBA basketball high score is a way of life. Team routinely top 100 points per side during a 48 minute game and can combine for a point total somewhere in the mid 200s. In the most high scoring basketball game in history, though, the two teams took three extra periods to combine for 370 points. In the highest scoring NBA game ever completed in regulation time, the two opponents combined for a lofty 320 points.
The highest scoring basketball game ever in the NBA, regardless of overtime, took place back on December 13, 1983. The Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets were high scoring acts when they met, averaging 117 points and 123 points, respectively, but there was no predicting the scoring explosion that was to come. The teams had already racked up 74 points each at halftime in a game that was tight the entire time. At the end of regulation, two young Pistons who would define the franchise for years in the future combined for a three-point play to send the game to overtime. Bill Laimbeer, the rough face of the Bad Boys era to come, made his first free throw and intentionally missed the second shot, which Isiah Thomas tipped in at the buzzer. Unlikely hero Kelly Tripuka came through in overtime for the Detroit Pistons, keeping them close and scoring all 12 points in the second overtime. The highest scoring basketball game ever ended with a 186-184 Pistons victory. The Nuggets had three of their all-time best players on the floor that night: Alex English, Kiki Vanderweghe, and Dan Issel. All three ultimately transitioned their careers into coaching and back office positions in the NBA.
The highest scoring NBA game ever that was completed without overtime also involved the Denver Nuggets. This time the visitors were the Golden State Warriors, coached by Don Nelson, the modern-day disciple of Doug Moe’s run and gun offense. Sporting three major NBA weapons in their prime, Nelson’s 1990-1991 Warriors defeated the Nuggets 162-158 in the opening day game of the season. Sharp-shooter Chris Mullin, who would later become GM and rehire Nelson as the Warriors coach, rained in 38 points with a phenomenal .640% shooting percentage from the floor. A young Tim Hardaway, who would be traded to Miami, and Mitch Richmond, who would end up with Sacramento for most of his career, each had good games with around 30 points apiece. On the other side of the court, the Nuggets featured journeyman forward Orlando Woolridge, who scored 37 points–well above his 16 point per game career average.
The highest scoring NBA game ever began as a close contest with the Warriors ahead at the half with an 87-83 advantage. Over the next half, the Nuggets would eat into that four point lead, grabbing one point in the third quarter and another in the fourth before falling to the Warriors. Coach Paul Westhead lead the Nuggets that year to an impressive run at the offensive side but his team ranked dead last defensively over the entire season.
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