Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell scored a stunning 71 points — matching the eighth-most ever in an NBA game — as the Cavaliers erased a 21-point deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls 145-134 in overtime on Monday, 2 January.
Mitchell’s performance was the highest single-game points total since Lakers great Kobe Bryant scored 81 against Toronto in 2006.
Wilt Chamberlain holds the single-game scoring record with 100 for Philadelphia against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962.
Mitchell became just the seventh player to score 70 or more points in a game.
He’s the first Cavs player to have a 60-point regular-season game — and he handed out 11 assists and grabbed eight rebounds to boot.
“First and foremost, my teammates,” Mitchell said in an on-court interview after the game, during which he was cheered rapturously by Cavs fans.
“I know I scored 70 and all, but I wouldn’t be here without them. We wouldn’t be in this position without guys making crucial plays and that’s the honest truth.”
The Bulls led by as many as 21 in the second quarter and by as many as 18 in the third.
The Cavs clawed back, however, and Mitchell forced overtime when he grabbed the rebound of his own intentionally missed free throw and drained an unlikely layup with three seconds remaining.
“We were treated tonight to one of the greatest performances in the history of the NBA,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said.
Mitchell connected on 22 of 34 shots from the field, drilling seven three-pointers as he carried a Cavs team that was without star guard Darius Garland and forward Evan Mobley.
DeMar DeRozan scored 44 points for the Bulls — who never trailed in regulation.
Mitchell scored 13 points in overtime — including the step-back three-pointer to open the extra session that put the Cavaliers up for the first time — and for good.
“It’s humbling,” Mitchell said of putting himself among some of the game’s greats. “Not only did I do that, I did it in an effort where we came back and won.”
Lakers’ ‘needed’ win
Mitchell’s scorching performance overshadowed some big games from some of the league’s biggest names.
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James opened the new year in style, scoring 43 points in a 121-115 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid delivered 42 points and 11 rebounds in a 120-111 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans — who lost star forward Zion Williamson to a hamstring strain.
Dallas star Luka Doncic scored 39 points with 12 rebounds and eight assists in the Mavericks’ 111-106 victory over the Rockets in Houston.
James, who had celebrated his 38th birthday on Friday with a 47-point outburst in the Lakers’ victory in Atlanta, followed up with another stellar night in Charlotte.
His five free throws in the final 24.4 seconds effectively clinched the victory.
Before then he thrilled fans in Charlotte with a pair of alley-oop dunks — including a reverse jam off a pass from Dennis Schroeder.
The four-time NBA champion is now 484 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time leading points total of 38,387.
James has been carrying an extra heavy load for the Lakers since Anthony Davis has been sidelined with a foot injury. Russell Westbrook left the game with a sore left foot in the first quarter.
Thomas Bryant scored 18 points and pulled down 15 rebounds and Austin Reaves and Schroder scored 15 point apiece as the Lakers wrapped up a five-game road trip with a second straight victory after dropping the first three.
“We needed this on the end of a road trip,” said James, who was an efficient 16 of 26 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. “We’re tired right now, but we stuck with it throughout the whole game and got a win.”
In Philadelphia, the Sixers avenged an 11-point loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Friday.
The 76ers, who were also boosted by 27 points from James Harden, pushed their league-best home winning streak to 10 games.
Embiid, listed as questionable before the game with lower back soreness, had a scare late with a fall under the basket that left him walking carefully to the huddle.
Elsewhere, the Brooklyn Nets pushed their winning streak to 12 games with a 139-103 romp over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Minnesota Timberwolves ended a six-game skid with a 124-111 victory over the Western Conference leading Denver Nuggets.