Plenty In Reserve
By Brian Martin
On Tuesday, Lakers guard Nick Young came off the bench to score a game-high 40 points in L.A.'s 124-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Young shot 15-of-26 (57.7%) from the field, hit 6-of-13 (46.2%) from beyond the arc and went 4-of-5 (80%) from the free throw line.
His 40 points were the most scored by a player in a reserve role in the NBA this season. The previous high was also set by a Los Angeles guard, as Jamal Crawford of the Clippers came off the bench and scored 37 points in a win over the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 25.
The last NBA player to score 40 points in a game as a reserve was James Harden, who scored 40 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their 109-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on April 18, 2012.
All of these performances are still well behind Nick Anderson, who scored a career-high 50 points in 33 minutes off the bench to lead the Orlando Magic to a 119-116 win over the New Jersey Nets on April 23, 1993. Anderson's 50-point performance is the best by a reserve player in the last 25 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
40-Point Games By A Reserve
Since 1992-93 season, regular season games only
|Nick Anderson||50||4/23/1993||Orlando||New Jersey||Win, 119-116|
|Darius Miles||47||4/19/2005||Portland||Denver||Win, 119-115|
|J.R. Smith||45||4/13/2009||Denver||Sacramento||Win, 118-98|
|Kevin Martin||45||1/3/2009||Sacramento||Indiana||Loss, 117-122|
|J.R. Smith||43||2/22/2008||Denver||Chicago||Loss, 121-135|
|Allen Iverson||43||3/1/2002||Philadelphia||New Jersey||Win, 110-012|
|Al Harrington||42||10/31/2009||New York||Philadelphia||Loss, 127-141|
|Ben Gordon||41||1/2/2007||Chicago||Phoenix||Loss, 96-97|
|J.R. Smith||41||12/23/2009||Denver||Atlanta||Win, 124-104|
|Nate Robinson||41||2/23/2009||New York||Indiana||Win, 123-119|
|Al Harrington||41||11/27/2009||New York||Denver||Loss, 125-128|
|Nate Robinson||41||1/1/2010||New York||Atlanta||Win, 112-108|
|Mike Miller||41||3/17/2006||Memphis||Denver||Win, 116-102|
|Todd Day||41||12/22/1995||Boston||Minnesota||Win, 114-113|
|Ben Gordon||40||12/27/2006||Chicago||Miami||Win, 109-103|
|Rodrigue Beaubois||40||3/27/2010||Dallas||Golden State||Win, 111-90|
|Nick Young||40||4/1/2014||L.A. Lakers||Portland||Loss, 112-124|
|Manu Ginobili||40||2/21/2007||San Antonio||Atlanta||Win, 103-96|
|James Harden||40||4/18/2012||Oklahoma City||Phoenix||Win, 109-97|
It's not surprising that Young and Crawford have the two highest scoring games off the bench this season, since they rank first and second in the league in scoring average by bench players. Young leads the league with 18.7 points in 47 games off the bench, followed by Crawford's 17.6 points in 43 games as a non-starter.
Top Bench Scorers, 2013-14 Season
Minimum 25 games played as a reserve
|Nick Young (LAL)||47||28.7||18.7||106.8||2.6||1.6||43.4%||39.1%||50.8%||9.7%|
|Jamal Crawford (LAC)||43||27.1||17.6||107.9||2.4||3.1||42.9%||36.9%||51.0%||13.0%|
|Dion Waiters (CLE)||46||27.7||14.7||99.6||2.8||2.7||42.9%||36.7%||47.4%||9.0%|
|Markieff Morris (PHX)||73||26.3||13.8||106.4||6.0||1.7||48.8%||33.0%||56.8%||12.5%|
|Alec Burks (UTA)||63||27.4||13.7||99.1||3.4||2.6||45.2%||35.7%||48.2%||10.5%|
Both Young and Crawford have been called upon to start games for their respective L.A. teams this season, and while both have performed better off the bench, Crawford has had more success in a starting role than Young.
The numbers shows only slight variance in Crawford's production depending on whether he starts or comes off the bench. Young, on the other hand, has clearly been better when he comes off the bench for the Lakers, although he has less opportunities as a starter. Young has started just nine games for the Lakers this season, while Crawford has started 23 for the Clippers.
With only a small difference in minutes played, we see that Young averages six more points per game as a reserve and shoots a much higher percentage, especially from three-point range (39.1% as a reserve compared to 21.9% as a starter).
During Young's 40-point game on Tuesday, he also played a team-high 33 minutes as coach Mike D'Antoni rode the hot hand to keep the Lakers in contention against the Blazers. In the end, it was not enough as the Blazers outscored the Lakers 61-51 in the second half on their way to a 12-point win.
Meanwhile, when Crawford starts, we see more than a nine-minute jump in minutes played, so his per game scoring is higher as a starter (20.6 points) than as a reserve (17.6). But if we look remove the minutes variance, we see that Crawford is more efficient coming off the bench as well.
Using his per 36 minutes stats, Crawford averages more points, rebounds and assists, while shooting higher percentages from the field and from three when he enters the game as a reserve rather than a starter.
What will Young do for a follow up tonight when the Lakers visit the Kings in Sacramento?
As for Crawford, he is listed as doubtful for tonight's game between the Clippers and Suns. So we'll have to wait until he's back in the lineup to see if he can top Young's benchmark.