clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

30 years ago today, Pistons topped Nuggets 186-184

Detroit found themselves on the winning side of the highest scoring game ever behind monster games from Isiah Thomas, John Long and Kelly Tripucka.


During the Going to Work era, the Pistons prided themselves on defense and a methodical, mistake-free brand of basketball. Detroit might only score 80 points, but that was OK because the opponent would be held to 68.

But 30 years ago, it was a different NBA. If you thought things were faster now, it's nothing compared to back then. And on Dec. 13, 1983, the Pistons didn't score 80, they scored 186. And they didn't give up 68, they gave up 184.

Unsurprisingly, it remains the highest scoring game in NBA history and will probably not be challenged in my lifetime, if ever.

The Pistons had plenty of Bad Boys on the team, but they had not yet developed their Bad Boys DNA. Instead, they were a hyper-athletic, quick-strike offense that averaged 117.1 points per game (and No. 1 in offensive efficiency).

The Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, were No. 1 in points at 123.7, but were generally talent-deficient, and tried to make up for it by instituting a unique whirling dervish of an offense installed by coach Doug Moe and executed by Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English.

By the end of the game several records had been broken and just about every stat was eye-popping. Check out the records courtesy of

Most points scored by two teams - 370
337, Milwaukee at San Antonio (3OT), 3/6/82

Most points scored by one team - 186, Detroit
184, Denver (same game)

Most points scored by a losing team - 184, Denver
166, Milwaukee (at San Antonio (3OT), 3/6/82

Most field goals by two teams - 142
136, Milwaukee at San Antonio (3OT), 3/6/82

Most field goals by one team - 74, Detroit
72, Boston vs. Minneapolis, 2/27/59

Most assists by two teams - 93
90, Rochester vs. Minneapolis, 1/23/57

Most players in one game with 40+ points - 4

Those four players were Isiah Thomas (47 points to go with 17 assists), John Long (41), Kiki Vandeweghe (51) and Alex English (47). Kelly Tripuka of the Pistons pitched in 35 while Dan Issel of Denver added 28. The two teams shot 56.6 percent from the field.

Remarkably, the game was close to never going into overtime. The Pistons were down three with seconds left with Bill Laimbeer at the line. He made the first and intentionally missed the second, allowing Thomas to tip it in before the buzzer.

Other things to note:

The Pistons lone(!) three pointer of the game came courtesy of Thomas, who nailed one during a key 7-2 run that forced the game into a second overtime.

In the second overtime, Tripucka was the hero. He scored all 12 Pistons points.

More About the Game

Box Score -- Basketball Reference recap plus original box scores

Look Back - Detroit News

If you have three hours to kill this weekend (if they're still active by then), watch the entire game on YouTube: