NBA on New Year’s Day 2022

by Henry L. Liao

New Year’s Day 2022 (January 2 Manila time) in the National Basketball Association (NBA) featured six games:

New Orleans at Milwaukee, San Antonio at Detroit, Chicago at Washington, Los Angeles Clippers at Brooklyn, Denver at Houston, and Golden State at Utah.


Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls [photo from DeMar DeRozan Instagram]
Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan of the Chicago Bulls [photo from DeMar DeRozan Instagram]
In NBA history, there has been just one instance where a player reached the 50-point plateau on New Year’s Day.

On January 1, 2018, DeMar DeRozan, then with the Toronto Raptors but now with the Chicago Bulls, chalked up a career-high and then-franchise record 52 points in the Raptors’ 131-127 overtime decision over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Air Canada Centre (now called Scotiabank Arena).

DeRozan, a 6-7 guard-forward from Compton, California, went 17-for-29 from the field, including 5-for-9 from three-point range, and 13-for-13 from the charity stripes for 52 points in 43:27 of service. He also dished out eight assists and grabbed five rebounds.

In Raptors history, only four men have netted 50 points or more in a single regular-season game. In addition to DeRozan, there’s Vince Carter (51 in a 103-102 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns on February 27, 2000), Terrence Ross (51 during a 126-118 home defeat to the LA Clippers on January 25, 2014), and the latest to accomplish the feat, Fred VanVleet who torched the Orlando Magic for a franchise-record 54 points in a 123-108 road win on February 2, 2021.

The 6-1 guard shot 17-for-33 from the field, including 11-for-14 from beyond the arc, and was perfect from the free-throw line at 9-for-9.

Undrafted in 2016 out of Wichita State University (2012-16), VanVleet owns the current NBA record for most points scored in a game by an undrafted player, surpassing Moses Malone’s 53. (Malone was never drafted in the NBA but was selected out of high school by the Utah Stars in the third round of the 1974 American Basketball Association (ABA) draft and played two seasons (1974-76) in the now-defunct league with the Stars and St. Louis Spirits before making his NBA debut in 1976-77 (following the NBA-ABA merger) while splitting time with the Buffalo Braves (the forerunners of the LA Clippers) and Houston Rockets.

On New Year’s Day in 2019, there was a pair of outstanding individual performances.

Kawhi Leonard, then of the NBA-title-bound Toronto Raptors but now with the Clippers, collected 45 points in the Raptors’ 122-116 home success against the Utah Jazz.

That same New Year’s Day, Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ Serbian center (who would become the NBA MVP during the 2020-21 wars) registered a triple-double of 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 15 assists in the Mile High City unit’s 115-108 win over the visiting New York Knicks.

On New Year’s Day in 2020, David J. Stern, who served for 30 years (1984-2014) as the NBA’s third commissioner, died at the age of 77. (He was succeeded by the current commish Adam Silver in 2014).

On the floor, the LA Lakers hosted the Phoenix in one of four games on the first day of a year, emerging victorious, 117-107, at the Staples Center (renamed the Arena starting December 25, 2021) behind a triple-double by LeBron James, who scattered 31 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists for a triple-double.