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Donovan Mitchell scores Cavs’ franchise-record, career-best 71 points in OT win

A 70-point game is a rarity in the NBA: just 11 in league history, heading into 2023.

Make it 12, now, though. On Monday night, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell did the unimaginable, erupting for a career-high 71 points to notch an incredible 145-134 overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls.

In a season where big numbers have become the norm, Mitchell put up the biggest numbers of all Monday night — matching the second highest-scoring game the NBA has seen in nearly 45 years. In fact, the only other players to score at least 71 in a game are Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor.

Donovan Mitchell’s shot chart from his 71-point game vs. Chicago.

“This is nuts, to be honest,” said Mitchell, who had 55 of his points after halftime. “I’m extremely blessed and humbled that I’m in that company, in that group. I’ve always believed I can be one of the best players in this league, but I’ve got to keep working. This is a big milestone, but at the end of the day, those guys have all won at the highest level. That’s my ultimate goal.”

He becomes just the seventh player in NBA history to score 70 or more in a game, and the first since Devin Booker in 2017. Mitchell’s total marked the most points in a game by any player since Bryant’s 81 in January 2006.


NBA SINGLE GAME LEADERS IN POINTS

Name Date Opponent (Result) Points
Wilt Chamberlain March 2, 1962 vs. New York Knicks (W) 100
Kobe Bryant Jan. 22, 2006 vs. Toronto Raptors (W) 81
Wilt Chamberlain Dec. 8, 1961 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (W) 78
David Thompson April 9, 1978 @ Detroit Pistons (L) 73
Wilt Chamberlain Nov. 16, 1962 @ New York Knicks (W) 73
Wilt Chamberlain Jan. 13, 1962 @ Chicago Packers (W) 73
Wilt Chamberlain Nov. 3, 1962 @ Los Angeles Lakers (L) 72
David Robinson April 24, 1994 @ LA Clippers (W) 71
Elgin Baylor Nov. 15, 1960 @ New York Knicks (W) 71
Donovan Mitchell Jan. 2, 2023 vs. Chicago Bulls 71
Devin Booker March 24, 2017 @ Boston Celtics (L) 70
Wilt Chamberlain March 10, 1963 @ Syracuse Nationals (L) 70

The most recent game of more than 71 points was Bryant’s 81-point masterpiece for the Los Angeles Lakers against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006. Before that, it was 73 points by David Thompson for Denver against Detroit on April 9, 1978.

“To be there in the record books with them is truly incredible,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who is playing his first season in Cleveland after being traded from Utah during the offseason, set a new scoring record for the Cavaliers, breaking the mark previously co-held by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving (57 points). 

However, he started slowly and missed his first shot. And his second. And his third. It took him nearly the entire first quarter to get a field goal attempt to finally fall.

He had five points in the first quarter, 11 more in the second quarter. Cleveland was getting run out of its building, having trailed by as many as 21 and going into halftime down 65-47.

But the 26-year-old guard looked unstoppable when his team needed him most. He had 24 points in the third quarter and 18 more in the fourth. After making his first free throw to cut the lead to two with 4.4 seconds left, Mitchell intentionally missed his second attempt, only to grab the miss and hit a layup to tie things up at 130 apiece. Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan looked to silence Cleveland fans at the buzzer but missed a long 3-pointer, leaving overtime to decide the outcome.

Mitchell needed 13 points in the extra period to complete his 71-point outpour. He also finished the game with eight rebounds and 11 assists; no player to score 70 prior had also dished double-digits.

After the game, Mitchell’s teammates were ready to celebrate the epic performance and the victory, dousing him with plenty of water while players from around the league praised his performance from afar on social media.

His was the 12th game of 50 or more points in the NBA so far this season; later Monday, Golden State’s Klay Thompson scored 54 in the Warriors’ double-overtime win over Atlanta — becoming the 13th 50-point game of the season.

Video game numbers are coming nightly now. Before Dec. 23, there had only been four days in NBA history where five players scored at least 40 points on the same day.

Consider: that’s four days in 76 years.

It’s happened three times in less than two weeks since.

On Dec. 23, five players — Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, New York’s RJ Barrett and Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton — did it. A week later, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, Chicago’s Zach LaVine, New Orleans’ CJ McCollum and Golden State’s Jordan Poole combined to do it again.

And then Monday, led by Mitchell and Thompson, it happened yet again — with James, Embiid and Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan also scoring at least 40.

“I’ll say again: Humbled to be in that company, humbled to be in this position,” Mitchell said.

There have been 87 games of at least 40 or more points already this season, by a combined 33 players. Doncic has eight such games of 40 or more, Embiid and Antetokounmpo each have seven, Boston’s Jayson Tatum has six. There were 119 games of 40 or more in the entirety of the 2021-22 regular season; this season isn’t even half over yet and players are already closing in on that total.

Doncic’s 60-point game, which he had on Dec. 27, was the NBA’s season high. It didn’t even last a week, not with Mitchell’s gem on Monday.

Credit: NBA

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