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30-year Orlandoversary: Skiles tallies NBA record 30 assists in win over Nuggets

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Denver Nuggets v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Scott Skiles is one of just two people in Orlando Magic history to serve as a player and a head coach for the franchise.

Ask any Magic fan what comes to mind when Skiles’ name is brought up however, and the first moment will likely be the one that took place on this day 30 years ago. Against the Denver Nuggets, Skiles set an NBA record with 30 assists in a 155-116 victory.

The Magic and Nuggets were a combined 12-45 when the teams met at the Orlando Arena on Dec. 30, 1990. No one would have guessed anything special would have taken place on that night. Instead, fans witnessed a record that still stands today.

From the opening tip, the Magic were in control of the contest. Orlando led by 12 points after one quarter and by 23 at the break. To that point, Skiles was on pace to fall just an assist shy of the record.

The record of 29 assists had been set by Houston Rockets’ guard Kevin Porter against the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 24, 1978. Skiles dished out No. 14 on a basket by forward Jeff Turner with less than a minute to play in the second quarter.

Continuing that pace seemed like a tall task. Up 72-49 through two quarters, neither Skiles nor the Magic showed signs of slowing down. In the second half, Skiles continued to pile up the assists and the Magic continued to put up points.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Orlando led 110-80 and it became apparent that the record was within Skiles’ reach. It would be the final period in which Skiles would make history. In addition to finding teammates, Skiles put the ball in the basket plenty himself. He scored 13 of his 22 points in the final quarter.

With less than seven minutes to go, Skiles led a 3-on-2 fast break when he found Jerry Reynolds for the slam. The dish was the 29th assist of the night, tying the NBA record. Skiles still had more than a half-quarter to make history.

It would take almost the entirety of that time for it to happen. Skiles remained stuck on 29 assists until the final minute when he again found Reynolds. This time, for an open jump shot. Reynolds’ shot rattled home and Skiles stood alone.

On a night where Skiles tallied 30 dimes, eight different Orlando players hit double figures. Reynolds led the way with 27 points, followed by Terry Catledge’s 25 points and Skiles’ aforementioned 22.

Dennis Scott finished with 18 points, Nick Anderson added 17, Otis Smith 14 and Turner and Michael Ansley with 13 apiece. Ansley and Catledge both finished with double-doubles, grabbing 13 and 11 boards, respectively.

As a team, Orlando shot 57%. Michael Adams led the Nuggets with 26 points. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Walter Davis each added 21 in the loss.

Skiles’ 30 assists wasn’t the only record set that night. The Magic’s 155 points remains a franchise record to this day.

Since Skiles’ 30-assist night, only former Utah Jazz All-Star guard John Stockton has seriously challenged it. Stockton tallied 28 assists less than three weeks later in a victory over the San Antonio Spurs. He came up just shy of Skiles’ record, which was set on this day three decades ago.