Does “getting buckets” really matter?

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Photo by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

By: Sean Golonka

Last year, the NBA saw just 10 players score 50 or more points in a single game. Despite not even being a quarter through the 2018-19 NBA season, six different players have already dropped at least 50, including a spectacular 60-point game from Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker.

But as Cardiac Kemba went off for 60 on an efficient 21 of 34 from the floor, the Sixers still managed to beat the Hornets in overtime, mostly thanks a game-winning three from Jimmy Butler. So, if Kemba Walker can score 60, and his team still can’t get the win, does “gettin buckets” really matter?

To be perfectly clear, I don’t mean scoring buckets–obviously, if one team scores more than the other, they’ll walk away with a win–I mean “gettin buckets.” I mean saucing it up. When I refer to “gettin buckets,” I mean when a guy is hot and tearing it up and scoring a ton, like when Kemba dropped 60 or when Wilt dropped 100.

So does “gettin buckets” really even matter?

To properly answer this, it’s important to take a look at the history of high-scoring performances. And the clear place to start when taking a look at high-scoring performances is with Wilt Chamberlain.

The legendary center had 32 games with at least 60 points, so I won’t look at every game. But some performances definitely stand out. In his second highest-scoring game, 78 points, his Warriors were still taken down by the Lakers by four. In a 72 point game, Wilt suffered a 12-point loss to the Lakers. About a year after his 100-point performance, Wilt dropped 70 on the Syracuse Nationals and still lost by 15.

I could go on and on about Wilt, but a lot of his buckets came during a high volume era, and their impressiveness is overrated. So, it’s time to take a look at some other eras.

In 1978, David Thompson dropped a bonkers 73 on 28 of 38 shooting, and his Nuggets still lost to the Pistons. In Devin Booker’s 70 point game, the Celtics still beat the Suns by 10. Kemba dropped 60 and lost.

Even looking at some superstars, scoring a whole lot wasn’t enough to get the win. Bernard King dropped 60 on Christmas, and the Nets still beat the Knicks. Michael Jordan hung a playoff record 63 on the Celtics, and Larry Bird still came away with the win. MJ’s 61 against the Hawks didn’t get him the win, and neither did his 64 against the Magic. Even in MJ’s career high 69-point performance, the Bulls still only beat the Cavs by four.

From here, I could easily dive into a ton of evidence that proves the contrary. Kobe’s 81 landed the Lakers an 18-point win. David Robinson’s 71 got him a double-digit win. Pete Maravich’s 68 came in a 17-point win for the Jazz.

But those wins are what you already expect. Most people would believe that a player scoring an absurd 60 points or more would land them the win, especially because only 26 different players in NBA history have done it. But, that just isn’t always the case.

Kemba’s 60 didn’t result in a win. And tons of others scoring 60+ didn’t get them a win. So it’s clear, basketball is about a whole lot more than if one guy can get mad buckets.

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