OT: 35 Yrs Ago Today - Most Pts Ever in NBA Game, Detroit 186 v Denver 184

Submitted by Mike Damone on December 13th, 2018 at 1:34 PM

Had forgotten about this game in the start of the Bad Boys era.  On 12/13/83, the Pistons defeated the Nuggets 186-184 in triple OT, and the 370 combined points is still the most ever in a single NBA game.  A few crazy stats:

1) Both teams were only 1-2 (or 2-4) combined from the 3-pt line, which had only went into play in the NBA starting in 1979.  The distance is the same as today.  

2) Thus, the teams had to combine for 255 FG attempts, making 144 of them, 56.5% FG%.  It was a 63 minute game (48 regulation, with 3 OTs at 5 minutes each).  Thus, the teams averaged 4 shots per minute, and making over 2 per minute. 

3) On top of this, the teams combined for 117 FT attempts, making 84 of them.

4) Four players scored over 40 points in the game - Isiah Thomas and John Long for the Pistons, Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English for the Nuggets.  Kiki was the high scorer, with 51 points.

Thought y'all might find it interesting.  Here is the boxscore if you want to look more closely at the numbers:



1989 UM GRAD

December 13th, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

I was 16 years old.  Vividly remembered watching that game on the 13-inch TV I had on my desk right next to my bed.

'88-'89-'90 is still my personal greatest sports era.  Two Bad Boys championships.  Michigan hoops championship.  Michigan in Rose Bowl.


December 13th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

ya, i remember watching that game.  both teams shot lights out.  i remember old man dan issel still getting up and down the court and filling the bucket for the nuggets.  tripucka had a good game too.

tripucka and vandeweghe never saw a shot they didn't like, and neither liked to play D.  i'm guessing they attempted to guard each other that game.

Naked Bootlegger

December 13th, 2018 at 1:54 PM ^

Kelly.  F'ing. Tripucka.   

Guy could light it up in tight tight shorts.   And the hair?   I have no words.    But he was a key part of Detroit's transformation from mediocrity to playoff caliber.   Those pre-Bad Boys teams were fun to watch.


December 13th, 2018 at 2:12 PM ^

Vanderweghe could straight ball. In today's game he would average 30+, as the three point shot was not a big part of the game then. Look where he is spotting up, at the top of the key. Those would be 3PAs today.



Ron Utah

December 13th, 2018 at 2:13 PM ^

This was not the early days of the Bad Boys.  This was before the Bad Boys.  That era started in 1986 when the Pistons drafted John Salley and Dennis Rodman.  That was after drafting Dumars the previous year.  That decade was defined by excellent front office decisions and drafting.  Both the Bad Boys and the Pistons of the Carlisle/Brown era were great teams, not reliant on one superstar.

If not for Michael Jordan, the Bad Boys would have hoisted another trophy or two.  They were a delight to watch.

Naked Bootlegger

December 13th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

Agree with this sentiment 100%.  I called this time period the pre-Bad boy era in my response above.   Isiah and Laimbeer were parts 1 and 2.   Vinnie part 3.   Dumars part 4.   Salley, Rodman, and Mahorn added to the mix truly defined the Bad Boys.   Tripucka to Dantley to Aquirre was, to me, a mostly transparent transition of small forwards largely allergic to playing defense.

But those early to mid 80's Pistons teams were a delight to watch offensively.   Crazy basketball.


December 13th, 2018 at 11:05 PM ^

Dantley's D was worse than Aguirre's. But more importantly Aguirre got his points in the flow of half-court O. Dantley ate up the shot clock as the guards stood on the perimeter to bail him out if he couldn't find what he wanted. The pick & roll between Bill & Zeke had improved to the point we couldn't let Adrian run his isos 25x/game anymore.


December 13th, 2018 at 2:17 PM ^

Point of Order; the '83 Pistons were a far cry from the Bad Boys.  Sure they had Isaiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson, and Bill Laimbeer, but Joe Dumars and Rick Mahorn wouldn't join the team for another 2 seasons and John Salley, Dennis Rodman, and Adrian Dantley wouldn't come on board until 1986.  It really wasn't until the '86 and '87 seasons that the Pistons really started to emphasize defense and physical play and find it allowing them to be legitimate title contenders.


December 13th, 2018 at 2:47 PM ^

Good stuff - great idea for a OT post on a sleepy Thursday.  ESPN Classic used to show this game all the time.

That 83-84 team didn't exactly play defense.  A far cry from the Bad Boys defensive dominance to come.  But you could see at least the beginning of the Bad Boys emergence if you looked close enough.  It was Chuck Daly's first year ... and Isiah, Laimbeer and VJ were forming a core to build off of.

The number of 3-pointers attempted is --- from the POV of today --- amazing.  But that's simply how the game was played then.  Larry Bird attempted less than 1 3-pointer a game in the 1983-84 season.  Stephen Curry is up at 10.5 attempts this year.


December 13th, 2018 at 3:06 PM ^

Great post. I moved to Colorado in 1982 from AA, I remember this game well. It was played just the way Doug Moe liked it. Basketball at Denard speed!. Those 1980's Nuggets were an entertaining group with Kiki, Alex English, and Issel. IIRC Doug Moe wanted his teams to shoot in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock.

Harball sized HAIL

December 13th, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

Damn I miss the Bad Boys era.  Games were so fun.  Little more like hockey USED to be back then.  Tension, no ticky tack fouls -  dudes would clothesline people, fights.  League changed a lot of the way the NBA is officiated because of those teams.  Pistons/Celtics series' were epic.  I used to want to go to Boston and fight the whole city.  Their fans and that team were so fucking unbearable.  


December 13th, 2018 at 4:02 PM ^

I was in a "YouTube vortex" the other night and got to watching highlights of Game 5 of the 1987 ECF.  The 2 infamous moments from that game, of course, are (1) the Bird steal and (2) Robert Parish finally deciding he was tired of Bill Laimbeer's tactics.

Parish didn't even earn a technical foul!  Play on, move on.  A different era back then for sure.