TBT: On this day in 1983, the Pistons beat the Nuggets 186-184

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What is always surely a tough pill to swallow for the “NBA players can’t play defense like they used to” crowd, December 13th marks the 33 year anniversary of the highest scoring game in NBA history. The game saw 370 points total as the Detroit Pistons outlasted the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime.

The fun part about revisiting this game 33 years later is checking the insane box score. The first thing that jumps out is Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas rocking a 47 point/17 assist stat line on over 50% shooting. Thomas is also the only Pistons to exceed the 48-minute mark, which of course, accounts for a full four quarters worth of minutes. Side note here: Thomas easily could have gone for 50+ if he didn’t do his best Andre Drummond impression at the free throw line.

Other Pistons notes: John Long gave the Pistons 41 points and 8 assists on an incredible 72% shooting from the floor, and Bill Laimbeer came reasonably close to recording a 5×5.

 

Pistons

Basic Box Score Stats
Starters MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Isiah Thomas 52:00 18 34 .529 1 2 .500 10 19 .526 2 3 5 17 4 1 2 5 47
Bill Laimbeer 47:00 6 10 .600 0 0 5 9 .556 3 9 12 6 3 3 0 4 17
John Long 46:00 18 25 .720 0 0 5 6 .833 4 2 6 8 3 0 3 4 41
Kelly Tripucka 39:00 14 25 .560 0 0 7 9 .778 0 4 4 2 1 0 4 5 35
Cliff Levingston 13:00 1 2 .500 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 6 2
Reserves MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Earl Cureton 34:00 3 6 .500 0 0 3 5 .600 3 4 7 2 2 1 0 5 9
Terry Tyler 28:00 8 15 .533 0 0 2 3 .667 2 6 8 1 4 0 1 3 18
Vinnie Johnson 21:00 4 12 .333 0 0 4 5 .800 4 1 5 8 0 0 1 3 12
Ray Tolbert 15:00 1 4 .250 0 0 1 4 .250 4 2 6 2 2 0 1 4 3
Kent Benson 13:00 0 1 .000 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 3 0
Walker Russell 6:00 1 2 .500 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2
David Thirdkill 1:00 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Team Totals 315 74 136 .544 1 2 .500 37 60 .617 23 33 56 47 19 6 13 44 186

 

Obviously, the Pistons, though the winners, weren’t the only team playing that night. Let’s have some fun and see what Denver’s box score looked like when it was all said and done, and there were no more points to give out.

Kiki Vandeweghe became unbelievably close to recording a 50 point triple double, and Alex English almost got there as well. Also worth noting, English’s 12 assists to zero turnovers is remarkable in any era, AND he played 50 minutes.

Nuggets

Basic Box Score Stats
Starters MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Kiki Vandeweghe 50:00 21 29 .724 0 0 9 11 .818 2 7 9 8 2 1 5 3 51
Alex English 50:00 18 30 .600 0 0 11 13 .846 4 8 12 7 0 1 0 4 47
T.R. Dunn 36:00 3 3 1.000 0 0 1 2 .500 1 3 4 2 1 2 4 6 7
Dan Issel 35:00 11 19 .579 0 1 .000 6 8 .750 2 6 8 5 0 0 3 3 28
Rob Williams 21:00 3 8 .375 0 0 3 4 .750 1 2 3 5 0 0 2 6 9
Reserves MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Mike Evans 40:00 7 13 .538 0 0 2 2 1.000 0 2 2 7 2 0 3 6 16
Bill Hanzlik 38:00 0 4 .000 0 0 2 2 1.000 2 5 7 7 1 0 4 6 2
Danny Schayes 24:00 0 1 .000 0 0 11 12 .917 2 5 7 2 1 2 1 4 11
Richard Anderson 14:00 5 6 .833 1 1 1.000 2 3 .667 2 3 5 1 0 1 2 4 13
Howard Carter 4:00 0 1 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Kenny Dennard 3:00 0 1 .000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
Team Totals 315 68 115 .591 1 2 .500 47 57 .825 16 41 57 46 7 7 24 43 184

My favorite part of this box score is that while 370 points were scored, only four three pointers were attempted the entire game in four quarters and three overtimes. Today, if you watch an NBA game, there’s a 50/50 shot you’ll see four three point attempts in the first four shots.

I think it is very important we take the time to shout out Cliff Levingston, T.R. Dunn, Rob Williams, Mike Evans, and Bill Hanzlik for making the most out of three overtimes and fouling out. If you don’t commit six fouls in over 60 minutes of basketball, you’re not playing hard enough.