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On This Day (Dec. 31)
Notable events from NBA history that occurred on December 31.
Unique Effort for Harden
On this day in 2016, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden ended the calendar year with a bang, tallying 53 points, 16 rebounds, and 17 assists in a 129-122 win over the New York Knicks. Harden became the first —and still only — player in NBA history to record at least 50 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a game.
Harden shot 14-26 from the field — including 9-16 from 3-point range — and 16-18 from the free throw line. This is one of 20 games in which Harden has made at least five 3-pointers and 15 free throws. No other player in NBA history has recorded more than four such games.
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Parade of Free Throws
On this day in 1954, the Minneapolis Lakers and Fort Wayne Pistons combined to shoot 127 free throws, the highest such total in a non-overtime game in NBA history:
Lakers — 47-59 FT (79.7%)
Pistons — 43-68 FT (63.2%)
The Lakers won the game 103-91, with Clyde Lovellette scoring a game-high 27 points.
The two teams combined to score 46.4% of the game’s points from the free throw line, the highest such figure in the NBA’s shot-clock era (i.e., since 1954-55).
Russ Matches Oscar
On this day in 2020, the Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook had 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. Westbrook joined Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the only players in NBA history to record a triple-double in each of their first four games of a season.
Westbrook recorded 38 triple-doubles in just 65 games played that season. That’s the highest triple-double percentage in a season in NBA history:
58.5% — Russell Westbrook, 2020-21
51.90% — Oscar Robertson, 1961-62
51.85% — Westbrook, 2016-17
46.6% — Westbrook, 2018-19
37.8% — Wilt Chamberlain, 1967-68
Westbrook averaged 22.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 11.7 APG for the season, his fourth time averaging a triple-double. Only one other player in NBA history has recorded even one such season (Oscar Robertson, 1962-62).
On this day in 2018, the Houston Rockets’ James Harden produced 43 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists in a 113-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Harden, who made 21 free throws, is one of only two players in NBA history to record a triple-double with 20 free throws made. The other is Oscar Robertson, who achieved the feat on Dec. 27, 1964.
Harden also made six 3-pointers in this game. It’s one of four career games in which Harden made at least five 3-pointers and 20 free throws, equaling the total of all other players in NBA history combined. No one else has recorded more than one such game.