If you care at all about defense being played at an adequate level in the NBA, you may want to avert your eyes.
A pair of perennially moribund franchises, the Sacramento Kings (who haven’t made the playoffs since the 2005-2006 season and last won a championship as the Rochester Royals in 1951) and the Los Angeles Clippers (who have only one conference finals appearance in team history and zero finals appearances), put on a historic show at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Friday.
Now, to be completely fair, this year’s Kings and Clippers are actually very good. The Clippers are largely viewed as title contenders, while the Kings have easily been the feel-good story of the season given that the last time they made the playoffs, “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter was Billboard’s No. 1 song.
But while both teams are eyeing playoff berths this season, neither demonstrated much playoff-caliber defense in a 176-175 double-overtime win for the Kings. That eye-popping final score is the second-highest in NBA history, and you can’t put up historically good offensive numbers without some historically inept defense.
Just look at this abysmal defensive sequence by the Clippers, noted by NBA analyst Kevin O’Connor:
I can’t get over how lost the Clippers looked on defense at the end of regulation. No foul up three points. Westbrook and Powell lost track of Monk. What went on in the huddle? pic.twitter.com/ik2XAfwsSf
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 25, 2023
According to ESPN, the Friday night game between the Kings and Clippers trails only a 1983 tilt between the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets for highest-scoring game in NBA history. (The Pistons won that game to the tune of 186-184.)
Any NBA fans who happened to tune in to this late game were treated to quite the performance from various star players — some expected, some not so much.
For the Kings, star big man Domantas Sabonis notched a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and yet wasn’t even close to being the team’s top player.
No, that honor is reserved for Kings guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who scored 42 and 45 points, respectively. (For comparison, on Friday night, the Brooklyn Nets scored 87 points total.) Monk’s outburst was rather surprising, as he’s averaging 14 points per game while coming off the bench.
The Clippers got their usual brilliance from their pair of elite wings, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. George racked up 34 points to go along with his 10 rebounds. Leonard, meanwhile, scored 44 points and grabbed three steals.
While Los Angeles got the expected output from its two star players, the team also introduced its newest acquisition in this game: noted hothead and turnover machine Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook, who began the year as a Los Angeles Laker, was traded to the Utah Jazz before ultimately being released and signing with the Clippers. He was promptly inserted into the starting lineup, and Friday was his Clippers debut.
The 34-year-old guard tallied 17 points and 14 assists, which is awesome. He was also credited with seven turnovers, which is decidedly not awesome. Compounding matters, Westbrook fouled out of the game with his team clinging to a 175-169 lead in the second overtime.
While it’s extremely unlikely that players like Westbrook, George and Monk will ever be compared to the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, it’s worth noting that none of the teams led by those Hall of Fame players ever came close to scoring 170 points, let alone 175 or 176.
Interestingly, Johnson’s highest-scoring output with the Los Angeles Lakers was also 155. Hilariously, that 155-118 win also came at the expense of the Suns.
Bird and his Boston Celtics were “only” able to score 152 in a 152-148 win over the Portland Trailblazers. The Celtics have actually scored 173 in a game before, but that came in 1959, well before Bird ever laced up a pair of Converse Weapons.
The Kings, who are atop the Pacific Division, next play on Sunday as they travel to Oklahoma City to face the upstart Thunder. The Clippers, who are third in the Pacific (though just 2.5 games back of the Kings), also play on Sunday when they travel to face the Nuggets.