The 10 NBA players that have scored the most points in one quarter of play

If you finish the game with 30 points scored, you’ve had yourself a pretty good game (and/or you shoot a whole lot). And in scoring 30 or more points, you probably had a couple good stretches of dominance throughout that game.


Now think about putting up those same 30 points in a 12 minute stretch. Your rhythm has to be dialed in and any shot is a good one, no matter how far or off-balance you are.

You also have to have a certain mindset to pour in 30 points in a quarter of play. Most players will lay off the gas or make a pass as if they’re not the best option. That’s why there’s only 10 or so NBA players that have ever scored 29 or more points in one NBA quarter of play.

There’s players on that list you would expect and a couple you wouldn’t (but probably aren’t that surprised). Here’s the 12 times that 11 NBA players have scored 29 points or more in one quarter of play.

Most Points in One Quarter
Rank Player Points Quarter Season
1 Klay Thompson 37 points 3rd 2014-15
2 George Gervin 33 points 2nd 1977-78
2 Carmelo Anthony 33 points 3rd 2008-09
3 David Thompson 32 points 1st 1977-78
5 Wilt Chamberlain  31 points 4th 1961-62
6 Michael Jordan 30 points 4th 1988-89
6 Vernon Maxwell 30 points 4th 1990-91
6 Kobe Bryant 30 points 3rd 2005-06
6 Kobe Bryant 30 points 3rd 2006-07
10 Dirk Nowitzki 29 points 4th 2009-10
10 Joe Johnson 29 points 3rd 2013-14
10 Isaiah Thomas 29 points 4th 2016-17

Yep, there’s Jordan and Dirk, Kobe and Wilt. Gervin vs. David Thompson.

Speaking of Wilt, you would assume that with Wilt’s scoring prowess he would be on this list multiple times. He did average over 50 points a game one season after all. Nope. The “Stilt” only makes this particular list once. And at the top if the list is a player that’s never led the league in scoring and barely makes the top ten in NBA scoring…

1. Klay Thompson 37 points On the night of January 23, 2015, Klay Thompson put in two games work in just one quarter against the Sacramento Kings. He didn’t just explode, but the massive boom could be heard from miles away. Thompson’s  went for a bonkers 37 points in the third quarter in the Warrior’s 126-101 win.​ 

To take the record, Thompson didn’t miss once in that quarter; hitting all 13 of his shots he took from the field — including 9 three pointers and a one-handed alley oop jam — as well as two free throws. Poor Nik Stauskas was a pile of ash by the end of the game.

“I can’t believe I own an NBA record,” Thompson told CSN Bay Area during a post-game interview. “God is good. I’m so blessed to be here and healthy. Hopefully it stands for a long time. That was crazy. I don’t know what happened. … I’ve never shot like that.”

The nine threes in one quarter is also an NBA record. In total, Mychal Thompson’s son finished with 52 points with 11 three-pointers.

#2 George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony (33 points) On April 9, 1978, The Iceman was unstoppable in the second quarter when he scored 33 points against the New Orleans Jazz. The 33 points was the NBA record for most points in a quarter.  Gervin owned that record for 30 years until December 10, 2008. That’s when Carmelo Anthony tied that record. Playing for the Denver Nuggets, ‘Melo exploded for 33 points; hitting 12 of 15 shots in the third quarter. The Nuggets would lean on Carmelo’s 33 (and at one point 26 consecutive points) go on for the win over the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-105.

It’s worth mentioning that when Gervin set the record,  he was in a tight battle with David Thompson for the NBA scoring title on the final day of the regular season. Speaking of Thompson…

​#3 David Thompson (32 points) On the last day of the 1977-78 season David Thompson was engaged in a race to be the league’s leading scoring vs. George Gervin. For his part, Thompson poured in 32 points in the first quarter on his way to a career-high 73 points. His 73 points stands as the fourth highest point total ever and the third​ highest point total that a player scored in one quarter in NBA history.

We’ve already  spoiled the ending with #2, but it’s worth mentioning that even with 73 points, Thompson still came in second in the scoring race. And what’s worse is that Thompson’s Denver Nuggets lost the game to the Detroit Pistons 139-137.

​4#​ Wilt Chamberlain (31 points) Hershey, Pennsylvania is about as famous for the chocolate that originated there as it is known for the 100 point night that Wilt Chamberlain had on March 2, 1962. In that one game, in addition to being the only player to score triple-digits in one game, Chamberlain would set a slew of NBA records. That included 31 points in the fourth quarter (Wilt also poured in 28 points in the third quarter of that same game). His 31 points in one quarter stood as the NBA record until Gervin added another basket to it 16 years later. The Philadelphia Warriors would win the game; outscoring the New York Knicks 169–147.

​#5​ Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Vernon Maxwell (30 points) Tied at #5 are three players that scored 30 points in one quarter. Well, go over each chronologically.

The G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan pumped in 30 points in the fourth quarter in a game on November 26, 1988. Despite Jordan’s doing his best to will his team to the win, the Chicago Bulls would end up losing against the Denver Nuggets by five points. Jordan pumped in 52 points for the game. Approximately 25 months later, Vernon Maxwell would match Jordan’s 30 point quarer. On January 26, 1991, “Mad Max”poured in 30 points in the fourth quarter to help the Houston Rockets defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-97. Maxwell finished the game with 51 points.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points in one quarter twice as a Los Angeles Laker. The first time Kobe went on a 30-point blitz occurred on December 20, 2005 when he went for 30 points in the third quarter. He finished that game with 62 points and more importantly, the112-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

The second time happened the following season (2006-07 ). Early in the regular season, on November 30, 2006, Bryant poured in 30 again; this time it was in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz. Kobe totaled 52 points in that game.

#6 Dirk Nowitzki, Joe Johnson and Isaiah Thomas (29 points)

When you think of the ability to put the ball in the basket, Dirk Nowitzki isn’t a player that immediately comes to mind as quickly as a Jordan, Kobe, Wilt or Dominique Wilkins. Even then, players like Allen Iverson, Larry Bird and Tracy McGrady get more respect then Dirk in this column. That’s all despite Nowitzki being one of six players to score 30,000 career points. That’s a feat even Wilkins, Iverson, McGrady and Bird can’t boast about.

With that, Nowitzki made this list with a 29 point fourth quarter during the 2009-10 NBA Season. On November 3, 2009, Nowitzki would lead the Mavs to a comeback win over the Utah Jazz and shattering the franchise record of points in one quarter held previously by Mark Aguirre‘s 24 points 15 years before.

Joe Johnson can do one thing very well; and that’s scoring. The multiple NBA all-star has played for the Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz and everytime he’s brought in, there’s no confusion as to what his strength is. That skill was on full display in the third quarter in a game between the Nets and 76ers on Dec 16, 2013. Johnson swished 8 threes on his way to 29 points in a blowout win for the Nets.

There’s been no shortage of amazing small players throughout the years, but no player under 6-1 has scored more points than the 5-9 Isaiah Thomas — not Isiah Thomas (6-1), not Iverson (6-0), not Calvin Murphy (5-10) and not Michael Adams (5-10), Earl Boykins (5-5) or Nate Robinson (5-9). And Thomas is easily the shortest player on this list.

On December 30, 2016, Thomas lit up TD Garden for 29 points in the fourth quarter. He would end up scoring a career-high 52 points in a three point win over the Miami Heat. He hit six of his nine three pointers in that critical quarter as the teams went back and forth.

Thomas’ scoring barrage was the most ever by a Boston Celtic, easily passing up the 24 points that Larry Bird and Todd Day held for most points in one quarter.

Lighting Up The Third Quarter

There’s something about the timing of the third quarter because two of the top three and five of the twelve instances happened right after halftime. Is it a combination of players being warmed up and have made adjustments so their at the highest peak?

You would think that a high scoring quarter would equate to one of the highest scoring games, but that’s not the case. As with Chamberlain’s 100 point game, when Kobe had his famous 81 point game (the second highest scoring game of all-time) none of his quarters made this list though he came close by scoring 27 points (third quarter) and 28 more points (fourth quarter).

Whatever the case, there’s being in the zone and being fire, but for these 11 players, they were on fire in the zone for 12 minutes.

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