1983 : Pistons and Nuggets Play Record-Breaking Game

December 13, 2018 all-day

On December 13, 1983, the Detroit Pistons defeat the Denver Nuggets by a score of 186-184 in triple overtime, in the highest scoring game in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Both teams entered the game on a three-game losing streak. With Denver leading by two after a strong offensive performance on both sides, Pistons center Bill Laimbeer intentionally missed a free throw with four seconds left in regulation, enabling Isiah Thomas to grab the rebound and drive to the basket, tying the game at 145. With Denver leading again, Thomas scored a three-point shot to help keep Detroit in the game and end the first five-minute overtime at 159-159 after Denver’s Dan Issel missed a last-second shot. In the second, Thomas netted a lay-up just after the buzzer sounded, leaving the score tied at 171. John Long put the Pistons ahead for good at 181-179 with one minute, 11 seconds left in the third overtime, with Thomas adding a lay-up after a steal seconds later and two points on free throws with 28 seconds left. Despite a three-pointer by Richard Anderson in the last two seconds of the game, Detroit emerged on top, 186-184.

Thomas (47 points) and Long (41) were the Pistons’ leading scorers, while Denver was led by Kiki Vandeweghe (51) and Alex English (47). In all, six players from each team scored in the double figures. The two teams shot a combined 142-for-251 (.566) from the field and both of them smashed the previous team record for most points scored in a single game–173, set by the Boston Celtics in a game against the Minneapolis Lakers (who moved to Los Angeles the following year) on February 27, 1959. Their combined total also easily surpassed the previous mark of 337, set by the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks in a 171-166 triple overtime win by San Antonio on March 6, 1982.

This Day in History from History.com

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