Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s brilliant 54-point performance in the famous, fabulous, and refurbished Madison Square Garden (MSG) got us thinking about the greatest scoring performances of all-time against the Knicks in MSG. Unfortunately for Curry, there have been so many great Broadway performances by Knicks’ opponents that his recent game barely makes the list.
On a February night in 2013, Stephen Curry led his upstart Warriors into MSG to face a daunting New York Knicks team, led by Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, and Amar’e Stoudemire. 54 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals later, we’re talking about Curry’s performance usurping the #10 spot, previously owned by a 52-point, 11-assist, and 9-rebound performance by the one and only 3-time MVP LeBron James
While James might have had a better overall game, Curry’s shooting performance was one of the best of all-time.
Despite losing 109-105 to the Knicks, Curry’s game in MSG may go down as one of the best shooting games of all-time. Curry made 11 of 13 three pointers, 7 of 7 from the line, and 18 of 28 from the field, 64.2%. But, 11/13 from down town? That’s 84.6%! That’s crazy! It was one of those nights where Curry could have pulled up and knocked it down from just about anywhere on the court. He was driving and popping. Faking and letting defenders fly by. Then, he was knocking them down. Curry wasn’t just scoring from the outside. On his way to the rim, Curry carved up Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton like a Thanksgiving Day turkey. Curry looked like the reincarnation of Reggie Miller out there, his stroke was so pure.
In the middle of Wilt’s epic ’61-’62 season, Chamberlain suffered this loss to the Knicks, despite scoring a game-high 55 points. For the season, Wilt averaged over 50 points per game and 25 rebounds. On this night, his 22 field goals and 11 made free throws could not lift his Philadelphia Warriors over the hometown Knicks, who won the game 116-110.
In one of the most memorable games of the 1990’s, Michael Jordan returned from his brief hiatus with professional baseball and had a most memorable return to the Garden. In only his 5th game back, Jordan, wearing number 45, was simply unbelievable, scoring 55 points in a 113-111 victory over the Knicks. You could tell from the opening tip that MJ was hot, and he kept going for it. A barrage of early short-range turn around jumpers got Jordan in his shooting groove. Once he got it going, Jordan was shooting and driving at will. Although John Starks guarded Jordan as well as anyone ever could, Jordan beat Starks on every play that night by out-thinking him. Speaking about the “Double-Nickel” game, Jordan said, “I had [Starks] at my disposal.” Jordan had the turnaround jumper on automatic, as he made his way back into the NBA limelight. That game will always be one of my favorite memories of Michael Jordan.
21/22 free throws
Another of the game’s greatest shooters, Rick Barry, a scoring virtuoso, had one of the greatest games in MSG in 1965. A career 24.8 ppg, Barry won the NBA title in 1975. In his rookie season with the San Francisco Warriors, Barry lit up the Garden for 57 points on 62% shooting from the field and 95.4% from the free throw line, in a losing effort, 141-137. Barry went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. While 57 was his highest scoring game in the Garden, Barry dropped in 64 points against the Portland Trailblazers in 1974.
58 Points (twice)
Wilt Chamberlain was a scoring machine; many who saw him play say he was the most dominant offensive force professional basketball ever witnessed. Chamberlain is noted for having said, “everybody pulls for David, nobody roots for Goliath.” Wilt was a Goliath, but he was one people adored. Like Kobe Bryant, Chamberlain has always been adored for his amazing scoring ability. Scoring 58 points in the Garden is something Wilt did twice. Once in 1960 in a 129-122 win, with Philadelphia. The other in an overtime win in 1964, as a member of the San Francisco Warriors.
In a gripping double-overtime Christmas game in 1962, Wilt Chamberlain led all scorers with 59 points. Chamberlain’s 23 field goals and 13 of 22, 59%, from the free throw line were not enough to stop the Knicks from walking away with a 136-135 win.
20/20 free throws
Starting off 3 for 3, Kobe Bryant continued to dominate. Bryant was burning up from the outside. Between his stop-and-pops and his fall away jumpers, Bryant had the Knicks defeated emotionally from the outset of the game. They just couldn’t stop him. No matter what defense they threw at him, it didn’t matter. It was just like what happened to Toronto (when Kobe had 81) and Dallas (when he had 62). During the Knicks game, loyal fan Spike Lee said, “this reminds me of the famous double-nickel game when Michael Jordan came back.” Which is ironic considering what Bryant said after the game. Bryant said to Spike Lee that MJ’s 55, Reggie Miller’s great moments, and his own 61-point performance were all “your fault.” In the midst of his 19 of 31, 61.2% shooting night, Bryant heard New Yorkers shouting for him as “MVP.” Bryant’s 61 points and 3 assists led the Lakers to a much-needed 126-117 victory over the Knicks. The Lakers had just lost center Andrew Bynum to injury, and the Lakers were starting a long road trip. It was an important game for the Lakers, and Bryant put his signature stamp on it.
Wilt Chamberlain has to be considered the “King of the Garden,” having amassed the most high scoring games of all-time in Madison Square Garden. On January 29th, 1963, Chamberlain had his only 60-point game in MSG. Going 27 of 44, or 61.3%, from the field; Wilt led his San Francisco Warriors to a 123-103-blowout victory over the Knicks.
On November 15, 1960, Lakers Hall of Fame forward had a game for the ages, and still one of the greatest games ever played in Madison Square Garden. Baylor’s 28 of 48 from the field, 58.3%, and 15 of 18 from the free throw line, 83% helped him set the single-game scoring record, a record later broken. Baylor’s amazing 71 points and 25 rebounds helped secure the 123-108 victory for the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the highest single-game output ever in Madison Square Garden, 13-time All-Star Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain drilled the New York Knicks for 73 points on November 16th, 1962. Wilt made 67% of his field goals on 29 of 43. And, he made an impressive 78.9% of his free throws on 15 of 19. Propelling his San Francisco Warriors to a 127-111 win, Chamberlain had the most efficient scoring game in MSG, scoring the most points at the highest rate.