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Inside the most random 40-point game in Jazz history

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In a night full of improbabilities, Grayson Allen added another wrinkle by becoming the second rookie in Jazz history to notch 40 in one outing.

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Clippers

Just over a week ago, Grayson Allen’s name usually only passed the lips of Utah Jazz fans in reference to how disappointing his rookie year had gone. Of Utah’s 77 games to that point, the former Duke Blue Devil had appeared in less than half of them. What’s more, Allen had appallingly low efficiency numbers, making just 32 percent of all shots, 29.7 percent of 3-pointers and 69 percent of his free throws.

Suffice it to say, the term “wasted pick” tended to creep all to often in conversations regarding Allen.

Then the rookie’s fortunes turned. After playing just four games in March, a slew of injuries crippled Utah’s guard rotation which opened the door for Allen to have his long-awaited moment — a chance he seized with the vigor only youth can conceive.

Allen stepped onto the court for the 34th and 35th time in a Jazz uniform for a pair of 21-point wins over Phoenix and Sacramento that saw him put up 37 points between the two games, setting new career highs for points in back-to-back games. The young guard also shot extremely well, going 16 for 25 from the field and 5 of 9 on shots beyond the 3-point line.

Five days later, a 23-year old waste of a first-round pick pulled off a stunning headliner performance:

Grayson Allen scores 40 points in a game.

It’s hard to comprehend just how strange and unexpected Allen’s scoring outburst was, even with his solid recent performances. No one saw it or could have foreseen it coming from its trajectory out of left field. Allen needed eight games and nearly a month to reach the 40-point mark on the season. It took him another 11 appearances — spanning 68 days — to score his next 40.

And he did it in 41 minutes Wednesday.

Without doubt, Allen’s 40 is the most random scoring outburst in Jazz history. The only one that comes close is C.J. Miles’ own 40-point game on March 16, 2011 against Minnesota. Miles averaged just 12.8 points that season but had tallied 26 games of at least 20 points in his career prior to then and was a staple in the rotation. Everyone knew that he could get a hot hand and go off. Allen had one 20-point game prior to his day in the sun and was bench fodder.

So just how exactly did Grayson manage to get to that arbitrarily notable 40-point mark? Well, for starters, he needed 30 field goal attempts to get there. That total may seem high but not completely outlandish until you learn that only seven other players in Jazz history have jacked up 30 shots in a game. And just one has done it this century: Donovan Mitchell.

Allen needed that many attempts (or at least have that mindset) to maintain the rhythm he’d been building in his last four games. It was something Allen even brought up before Wednesday’s game.

“When you get a certain amount of rhythm in a game in basketball, it’s fun,” Allen said. “And I think that it is tough to get that playing sparingly minutes here and there. You don’t really get it from practice unless you’re playing five on five.”

Throughout the game, Allen didn’t have any reservations about shooting and he pulled almost every trick from his proverbial hat. Just about every shot in the book, he tried. Spot-ups, inside the paint floaters, driving layups, pull-up midrange shots, above the break transition 3-pointers, you name it, he tried it. Just look at this breakdown of his shot attempts throughout the game.

Grayson Allen Shots

Shot No. Made/Miss Shot Type Dist. (ft) Quarter Time Points
Shot No. Made/Miss Shot Type Dist. (ft) Quarter Time Points
1 Made Driving Layup 1 1 11:31 2
2 Miss Pull-up 3-pt Jumper 27 1 8:26
3 Miss Jumper 27 1 7:56
4 Made Jumper 16 1 2:21 4
5 Miss Heave 48 1 0:00
6 Miss Pull-up Jumper 13 2 11:27
- Made Free Throw - 2 11:19 5
- Made Free Throw - 2 11:19 6
7 Miss Floater 13 2 8:52
8 Made Jumper 13 2 7:57 8
9 Made 3-pt Jumper 23 2 7:14 11
10 Miss Pull-up Jumper 14 2 6:40
11 Made 3-pt Jumper 27 2 5:53 14
12 Miss 3-pt Jumper 22 2 3:41
- Made Free Throw - 2 1:30 15
- Made Free Throw - 2 1:30 16
13 Made Pull-up 3-pt Jumper 27 3 10:52 19
14 Miss Driving Layup 2 3 9:46
15 Miss Floater 9 3 9:15
16 Miss Driving Layup 2 3 8:36
17 Made Fadeaway Jumper 16 3 7:10 21
- Made Free Throw - 3 1:41 22
- Miss Free Throw - 3 1:41
18 Miss Heave 36 3 0:01
19 Made Jumper 16 4 8:01 24
- Made Free Throw - 4 8:01 25
20 Made 3-pt Jumper 26 4 5:58 28
21 Miss Driving Layup 1 4 5:20
22 Made Driving Layup 3 4 4:07 30
- Made Free Throw - 4 3:46 31
- Made Free Throw - 4 3:46 32
23 Miss Driving Layup 3 4 3:06
24 Miss Floater 7 4 2:42
- Made Free Throw - 4 2:21 33
- Made Free Throw - 4 2:21 34
25 Miss 3-pt Jumper 26 4 1:44
- Made Free Throw - 4 0:38 35
- Made Free Throw - 4 0:38 36
26 Miss Layup 2 5 4:28
27 Miss 3-pt Jumper 27 5 1:59
28 Miss Pull-up 3-pt Jumper 24 5 1:32
29 Miss Driving Layup 2 5 1:03
30 Made 3-pt Jumper 23 5 0:18 39
- Made Free Throw - 5 0:18 40

When it came to making the shots he took, however, Allen might have to try and get more mileage out of the “rookies make mistakes” line that has kept his career prospects from tanking. He made just 11 of his shots (36.7 percent).

But again, the volume of attempts helped, as did the 14 free throws he drew. Eight of those 14 attempts (of which he made 13) came in the fourth quarter and overtime, bolstering the mediocre 4 of 12 shooting line Allen put up from the field in that same span, including a 0 for 5 run toward the end the game.

The obvious elephant in the room is that Allen did all this in a game with no stakes and effectively no competition for taking shots. Heck, Georges Niang took 21 shots and was the second-leading scorer for the Jazz with 24. But a similar thing could be said of Donovan Mitchell in his time in Utah. He filled a scoring void no one else did (or could), albeit he’s done it better and for two full seasons and in the playoffs.

But even more to Allen’s credit, he played against what was mostly the main rotation of the Clippers as they didn’t rest half their roster for the night and their main guys got some decent burn on the court.

To say this kind of night from Allen is sustainable is foolish, as is saying it’s inconsequential. There are now 68 players in NBA history (per Basketball Reference going back to 1946-47) that have crossed the 40-point threshold during a game in their rookie season. Of those names, 33 are Hall of Famers (or will be), another 12 were selected at least once as an All-Star and 13 more produced decent careers. Just five became nobodies that flamed out of the league and only one of those has come since 1970 (Rodrigue Beaubois, 2009-10). The last three names on the list are Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Grayson Allen. Make of that what you will.