The end of any NBA season is full of bizarre and atypical events. When a team loses all hope of making the playoffs, lineups and strategies can go in weird directions. It's a good idea for fans to expect the unexpected.
Nevertheless, there was really no way to predict what Minnesota Timberwolves wing Corey Brewer achieved on Friday night against the Houston Rockets. In a performance without clear precedent, the seven-season pro scored a career-high 51 points on 19-of-30 shooting from the field and 11-of-15 shooting from the line in 45 minutes. With star power forward Kevin Love, guard Kevin Martin, and center Nikola Pekovic sitting out, Brewer was the focus of the Wolves' offense and a terror for the Rockets. Check out his shot chart — heavy on baskets at the rim — below:
NBA fans have seen very, very little in Brewer's career to suggest that such a game was possible. The fourth pick in the 2007 draft out of Florida, Brewer immediately struggled to score as a pro (either efficiently or in volume) and has spent his career as a journeyman with some athleticism and defensive ability. Heading into this game, Brewer had a career-high of 29 points (achieved last March 21 as a member of the Denver Nuggets) and had reached the 25-point plateau only 11 times in 463 career games. Even with the Wolves' usual scorers in street clothes, there was really no way to see Brewer exploding in this manner.
It's enough to wonder if this performance ranks as the most illogical 50-point game in NBA history. The most apparent contenders are Tony Delks's 53 points in 50 minutes with the Phoenix Suns in January 2001 and Willie Burton's 53 with the Philadelphia 76ers in January 1994. Delk's game stands out in large part because his career was so unremarkable — no one ever expected much of him, the game didn't propel him to greater heights, and he only scored 25 points eight other times in his career. Burton is a little more like Brewer — he played regular minutes for several teams, seemed to have established his baseline stats at that point in his career, and at least came across as someone who could score 30 points if necessary (which, incidentally, he did only one other time). Choosing the weirdest game from this trio really depends on how you qualify the term, but Brewer is certainly a legitimate option.
A single game is no harbinger of future offensive dominance for Brewer, so it would make sense not to predict similar scoring onslaughts in his future. However, the fact that this performance won't be reproduced doesn't make it any less worthy of celebration. What Brewer did on Friday night isn't part of any larger pattern, but that kind of event is what can make watching a random basketball game such a singularly delightful experience. His 51 points will always be a part of the not entirely sensible but goofily memorable history of the league.
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