After this weekend's slate of games, the first trimester of the eagerly anticipated 2010-11 NBA season will nearly be in the books.
This year has already produced some fantastic moments and memories: Utah's string of consecutive double-digit point comebacks, buzzer beaters from Rudy Gay, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bogut and Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin's incredible display of relentless aerial attacks on the rim and the resurgence of Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and the New York Knicks are a few that immediately spring to mind.
There have been countless amounts of impressive individual performances already through the first 25-plus games of 2010. Eleven different players have broken the 40-point plateau.
The 20-rebound mark has been crossed 15 times, with Kevin Love accomplishing the feat on five separate occasions.
And we've seen players tally 15 or more assists in 23 games.
Still, there were some games from certain individuals that we probably won't be forgetting about anytime soon for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was a 40-point game that seemed to come out of nowhere. Maybe it was an All-Star putting up career-high numbers. Or maybe it was a game that featured several "wow!" moments, like Griffin's dunk against Danilo Gallinari or Russell Westbrook's posterization of Shane Battier.
Without further ado, let's countdown the most impressive performances through the first two months of the season. To clarify, this list isn't necessarily the 15 best overall stat lines of the season (otherwise we could just dedicate this entire piece to Kevin Love). Instead, it's the 15 lines that either made you say "whoa, where did that come from?" or will almost-definitely be remembered when discussing this particular season five or 10 years from now.
Starting at the bottom...
39 mins, 10/14 FG, 2/4 FT, 1/1 3PT, 23 pts, 14 rebs, 4 asts, 5 stls
A line of 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds isn't exactly unheard of in today's NBA. After all, Kevin Love has already unleashed five 20-20 games.
But the fact that this line came from Ben Wallace of all people is what is most surprising.
The 23 points were a career-high from the 15-year veteran and the 14 rebounds were a season-high. Wallace also hadn't recorded five or more steals in over three seasons, since he had five as a member of the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 1, 2007.
And to cap it off, the three-pointer was just the fourth of his career and first since February of '05.
42 mins, 13/15 FG, 2/4 FT, 28 pts, 21 rebs (7 off.), 2 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk
Like Ben Wallace's line, Biedrins' 28 points and 21 rebounds stand out not because it's overwhelming to see a 20-20 game (Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony, Andrew Bogut, Al Horford, Nazr Mohammed and Zach Randolph all have logged 20-point, 20-rebound games this season), but simply because you would never expect it from a guy like Biedrins.
He's a career 60-percent shooter from the field but went on an absolute tear in this game, shooting 13-of-15 from the floor en route to a season-high 28 points—his highest point total since Nov. 24, 2006 against Denver when he notched 31.
In fact, only twice in 376 career games has Biedrins scored more than 25 points.
His seven offensive rebounds matched a season-high as well.
41 mins, 17/31 FG, 7/10 FT, 1/2 3PT, 42 pts, 9 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl
After the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh trio decided to join forces in Miami, Pat Riley wanted to clear out a majority of the remaining roster to create as much cap space as possible.
So shortly after the announcement was made, Beasley was shipped to Minnesota for a 2011 second-round draft pick and the right to swap future first-round selections.
Playing out of Wade's shadow for the first time in his career, Beasley has flourished as the Timberwolves' primary scoring option—he's averaging 21.0 points on 47.5-percent shooting, including nearly 40 percent from the three-point line.
In perhaps what was his formal coming-out party, he exploded for 42 points and nine rebounds in a victory over the Kings. He was just three points short of his previous career-high of 30 at halftime and made only one three-pointer, instead doing most of his work near the hoop and with his mid-range game.
39 mins, 7/9 FT, 2/3 3PT, 41 pts, 7 rebs, 6 asts, 2 stls
Andrea Bargnani's never been a guy that has had trouble scoring. He's averaged over 15 points per game in each of the last three seasons and has upped his totals to a career-best 21 per game as Toronto's featured frontcourt player (sans Chris Bosh).
But the 2006 No.1 pick has only had six games of 30 or more points—a bit of an eye-opening stat when you consider how good he can be when he gets in a rhythm.
A few weeks ago he put together one of the most impressive all-around performances of his career, though, going 16-of-24 from the field en route to 41 points, seven rebounds and six assists against the Knicks in a wildly entertaining shootout in Madison Square Garden.
Bargs went 6-of-8 from the field and scored 15 in the fourth quarter. The Knicks led by no more than five points but Bargnani had an answer every time they tried to pull away, scoring in almost every way imaginable. His three-pointer with 28 seconds remaining tied the game at 110 before Raymond Felton bounced in a three-point attempt with 2.7 seconds left to secure the win for New York.
40 mins, 10/18 FG, 3/3 FT, 23 pts, 16 rebs, 5 asts, 2 stls, 6 blks
That's right, this is the same Darko Milicic that was taken ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the 2003 Draft.
Darko is having an impressive season (by his standards) as the starting center in Minnesota this season, with 10.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.0 assists per game. He's cracked 20 or more points four times this year after accomplishing that feat just four times in his first 383 career games.
Anyone that expected to him to have this kind of performance against Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and the rest of the Lakers must be one hell of a prognosticator. The 23 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks were all career-highs.
43 mins, 13/17 FG, 5/6 FT, 4/7 3PT, 35 pts, 5 rebs, 11 asts, 4 stls, 1 blk
It's not a total surprise that Felton is enjoying tremendous success as New York's starting point guard. When in college at North Carolina, he led his team to a national championship playing in a similar system and that ultimately led to him getting selected with the No. 5 pick in 2005.
But in Charlotte, and especially under Larry Brown, Felton was limited to a more conservative role where he barely pushed the tempo and never really had an elite pick-and-roll forward or center (aside from Gerald Wallace, who was the only real low-post scorer Felton played with).
He's now thriving as a Knick, on pace to set career highs in points, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, three-point makes and steals.
It all came together on a Friday night in November when two of the best offensive teams in the league met at Oracle Arena.
Felton posted 35 points on a remarkable 13-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-7 from the three-point line. He repeatedly torched Steph Curry and also dished out 11 assists and grabbed four steals for one of the best all-around performances from a point guard of the season at the time.
Even though it was against the Warriors, the performance showed that Felton was on his way to being one of the breakout players of the season.
40 mins, 18/24 FG, 9/12 FT, 1/2 3PT, 46 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls
Forty-point games aren't anything new for Monta Ellis—he's cracked that number six times over the past three years and is widely viewed as one of the most dynamic scoring guards in the league.
What set this opening night 46-point performance apart for Ellis, though, was his whopping 18-of-24 line from the field.
He had shot about 45 percent from the floor between 2008-2010 and he has always been known as somewhat of a volume scorer.
Ellis got anywhere he wanted on the floor and came up big in the final minutes for the Warriors. Scoring 46 points while taking just 24 shots is incredibly efficient, especially considering he made just one three-pointer.
36 mins, 15/24 FG, 2/2 FT, 7/10 3PT, 39 pts, 10 rebs, 3 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk
Everyone kind of expected Phoenix's makeshift frontcourt combination to carry the scoring load left by Amar'e Stoudemire, but it's been Jason Richardson that has stepped his game up and helped to carry the Suns offensively.
He's had three games of 35 or more points and four games where he's connected on at least five three-pointers.
In the highest scoring regular-season game of the season so far, the Denver Nuggets had no match for J-Rich's 39 points and seven three-pointers. His 10 rebounds added to a double-double, his first since March of last season.
45 mins, 9/16 FG, 11/14 FT, 29 pts, 2 rebs, 13 asts, 9 stls
In just his third career start and first in Washington, John Wall had one of the best debuts in Wizards history with 29 points, 13 assists and nine steals while leading his team to an overtime victory over Philadelphia.
The game wound up creating a lot of controversy but not for anything Wall did on the court. Several media pundits, including radio talk show host Colin Cowherd, ripped Wall for dancing "The Dougie" (feels weird to put that in quotation marks) on the court before the game.
His line was also discredited some because of eight turnovers, but most people were forgetting that it was the kid's third career NBA game. I'm sure Wizards fans everywhere would be fine if Wall did a pre-game dance and matched a franchise record (steals, in this case), nearly posted a triple-double, and the team won.
54 mins, 12/20 FG, 13/15 FT, 37 pts, 15 rebs, 7 asts, 1 blk
If we were basing this list off of production for the entire season and not just one game, then Amar'e Stoudemire (26.7 points, 54.0 FG percent, 9.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.0 blocks) might be No. 1.
There have been several games this season season where Stoudemire has far-and-away been the most impressive and most dominant player on the court. But to me, it was this game at Detroit (which kicked off his 30-point streak) that was his best all-around performance of the season.
Aside from the obviously impressive 37 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, it was his on-court leadership that really fueled the Knicks and allowed them to jump-start an eight-game winning streak.
With Ronny Turiaf out with a knee injury and Raymond Felton being under the weather, Stoudemire was a nightmare for the Pistons to handle. They constantly were forced to readjust their defense, and his inside game made their defense collapse, allowing New York to knock down 15 three-pointers.
Not only was it one of his best games statistically of the season, but he also began to show the signs that he was more than ready to accept the challenge of being the No. 1 guy in New York.
42 mins, 13/24 FG, 17/18 FT, 43 pts, 8 rebs, 8 asts, 3 stls, 1 blk
If Russell Westbrook started to make the leap this past offseason with his performance at the FIBA World Championships, then he's competing in the Olympic long jump at this point.
Westbrook has emerged as one of the most dynamic and complete young point guards in the league, averaging nearly 23 points per game to go along with 8.5 assists and a 44.8 field goal percentage.
He's had his opportunity to shine without Kevin Durant in the lineup, but on Nov. 26, it didn't matter who else was on the floor—it was simply the Russell Westbrook Show and everyone else was just an audience participant.
He exploded for 43 points (career high) while going an impressive 17-of-18 from the foul line. Shooting 13-of-24 from the field is also quite an accomplishment for the third-year guard, considering he was just a 40.7-percent shooter in his first two seasons.
Throw in eight rebounds, eight assists and a few steals and blocks and it was the strongest individual performance from a guy who is loudly making a name for himself.
45 mins, 4/12 FG, 2/6 FT, 10 pts, 10 rebs, 24 asts, 1 stl
Never would I have thought that a 4-of-12 shooting night would grace the top five of a list that includes some incredible individual performances.
But Rajon Rondo's decimation of New York's defense in early-October was so mesmerizing and captivating that it has to be considered one of the best all-around games from a point guard this season.
The Celtics guard who has thrived in the postseason, but hasn't put up spectacular regular season numbers, went for 10 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 24 assists in leading the Celtics past the Knicks. He bested his previous career-high regular-season assist total by six (18 versus Sacramento in March).
The 24 assists were the second most in storied Boston history behind Bob Cousy's 28 in 1959. He also tied Isiah Thomas for the most assists ever recorded in a triple-double.
43 mins, 19/28 FG, 5/7 FT, 3/3 3PT, 46 pts, 9 rebs, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk
Paul Millsap really is the perfect fit for the Utah Jazz—they're both a little underappreciated and people often forget (or take for granted) that they're really, really good at basketball.
Millsap reminded everyone of that in early November on NBATV's Fan Night with 46 points, including 11 in the final 28 seconds of regulation, as the Jazz rallied from a 22-point second-half deficit to stun Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Miami Heat 116-114 in overtime.
The Jazz trailed the Heat by 19 at halftime but scored 84 in the second half to come storming back. Trailing by eight with 30 seconds to go, Millsap (a career 2-of-20 three-point shooter) knocked down three triples and grabbed an offensive rebound to score the game-tying basket as the clock expired to send the game to overtime.
We may see more 46-point games this season, but few will have the impact, excitement and drama surrounding them that Millsap's unforgettable night in South Beach had in early November.
39 mins, 14/24 FG, 16/23 FT, 44 pts, 15 rebs, 7 asts, 2 stls, 1 blk
Much like Russell Westbrook and the guy who is No. 1, you can make a top 15 list based solely on Blake Griffin games and you'll still probably leave a few good games off the list.
Griffin has been one of the most impressive rookies in recent memory and his explosion against the Knicks was the ideal way to inaugurate him into the league.
Not only did he put forth his best statistical game of the season, but he also left the Knicks jaw-dropped with his dizzying array of low-post moves and high-flying dunks.
He would easily be No. 1 if not for a feat that hadn't been accomplished in almost 30 years...
41 mins, 11/26 FG, 8/10 FT, 1/4 3PT, 31 pts, 31 rebs (12 off.), 5 asts, 1 blk
Love's 31-point, 31-rebound performance was the NBA's first 30-30 game since Feb. 11, 1982 when Moses Malone accomplished the unique feat.
It was also the league's first 30-rebound game since Charles Barkley back in the '90s.
Love has posted five 20-20 games so far this season and has another 30-20 game as well. Something suggests that, as long as Love is in the league, we might not be waiting 28 more years for another 30-30 game.