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The Highest-Scoring Game in NBA History


On December 13, 1983, two of the league's best offenses produced a basketball game to remember, setting the association's record for the highest-scoring contest in NBA history. The Detroit Pistons defeated the Nuggets 186-184 after a triple-overtime thriller, combining for 370 points - a feat that hasn't been eclipsed to this day, 37 years later.

Here's the game by the numbers:

  • There were two made three-pointers in the game. Only four were even attempted
  • The teams combined for 117 free-throw attempts (84 were made)
  • There was a total of 93 assists
  • A whopping 251 field goals were attempted. Detroit made 74 (the team shot 54.4 percent) while Denver made 68 (it shot 59.1 percent)
  • An NBA record four players scored over 40
  • There were 113 rebounds, with only two players reaching double digits
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Denver's Kiki Vandeweghe led all scorers with 51 points while also adding 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Alex English added 47 for the Nuggets, and Dan Issel had 28 in 35 minutes of action. Detroit's then-emerging young superstar Isiah Thomas had a career-high 47 for the Pistons, with four other players scoring in double figures. Long had 41, Tripucka added 35, Tayler had 18, and Vinnie Johnson put up 12 off the bench.

At that time, if you go to Denver, you know you're going to be in for a scoring match. They didn't run a lot of plays, they just kept running. We knew we had to play a certain way with them. The game lasted so long; we were wondering if we could find a place to eat after the game. We were wondering, is there an all-night diner in Denver?

Kelly Tripucka, ESPN

The closest two teams got to breaking the record was in '19 when the Bulls and the Hawks combined for 329 points after a quadruple OT thriller. Chicago ended up beating Atlanta 168-161, for the third highest-scoring game in NBA history. The second place is still held by the Spurs and the Bucks, which preceded the record-breaking display by Denver and Detroit. San Antonio and Milwaukee combined for 337 points in '82, setting what was at the time an unprecedented scoring threshold within the association.

But it ended up being a short-lived one because, a year and a half later, the Pistons and the Nuggets rewrote the NBA history books, for a record that still stands, 37 years later.

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