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The Best NBA Playoff Performances of All Time

best nba playoff performances

On the eve of the NBA Finals we have been discussing the best playoff performances of all time.

With all apologies to Michael Jordan I’ve always thought, anecdotally, that Sleepy Floyd as a Warrior in ’87 was as good as anything I ever saw in a NBA playoff game.

To my surprise that game ranks as the 3rd best performance ever, right behind the aforementioned Mr. Jordan.

When you are sitting on the porch with the fellas, knocking back a few cold ones, questions like “What was the best individual NBA playoff performance ever” have no wrong answers.

When you analyze stats and set up criteria, right and wrong start to mean something.

For this list we are using the GameScore metric.  Game score is a stat created by John Hollinger. It is a simpler, linear version of PER. As such we think that it gives a better view of single games.

 

The Ten Best NBA Playoff Games Ever

Charles Barkley Charles Barkley
1994-05-04
52.6 GmSC

Barkely, even at the tail-end of his career, was a monster.In the ’94 playoffs Sir Charles torched the Dubs for 56 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and a block.He scored 38 points in the first half alone.This game ranks as the best individual performance in the playoffs ever.
Michael Jordan Michael Jordan
1992-04-29
49.8 GmSCJust a couple of year earlier Jordan destroyed the Miami Heat in the ’92 playoffs:56 points, 5 rebounds and assists, 4 steals and 2 blocks.
sleepy floyd Sleepy Floyd
1987-05-10
49.1Sleepy Floyd single-handedly prevented the Lakers from sweeping the Dubs in the ’87 playoffs.Floyd still holds the NBA playoff record for points scored in a quarter (29) and in half (39).
Hakeem Olajuwon Hakeem Olajuwon
1987-05-14
48.6As we stay in ’87, Olajuwon had his best playoff game ever.  Ironically it did not come in one of his championship season and was in a losing effort.49 points, 25 rebounds, and 6 blocks is, by any measure, a fantastic game.
Michael Jordan Michael Jordan
1986-04-20
47.2A year earlier a young Michael Jordan had a sort of coming out party against the Celtics.Yes, he was already a star by this point but this game established him as a legend.63 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.
Charles Barkley Charles Barkley
1993-06-01
47.1In case you are one of those people that doesn’t count Barkley as an all-time great, being the only person other than Jordan to have two games on this list should but that debate to rest.Charles posted a triple double this night with 43 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists
Vinsanity! Vince Carter
2001-05-11
46.8Vince Carter is the only current NBA player on this list although this game was 18 years ago!Vinsanity was playing for the Raptors back then and scored 50 in a win over the 76’ers.
Dirk Nowitzki Dirk Nowitzki
2011-05-17
46.5On the way to leading the Dallas Mavericks to a NBA Championship over Lebron’s Heat, Dirk had once of the best playoff games of all time.In the first game of the series against OKC Dirk went off for 48 points on 80% shooting (12/15).
Patrick Ewing Patrick Ewing
1990-05-04
46.4While Ewing never brought a championship to the Big Apple, he did have one of the best playoff games of all time.In 1990 Patrick Ewing scored 44 points to rout the Celtics in Game 4 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Allen Iverson Allen Iverson
2001-05-16
45.3In 2001 AI was so good he carried an otherwise pedestrian team all the way to the NBA Finals.Along the way on May 16th Iverson scored 52 with 7 assists and 4 steals to destroy Vince Carter’s Raptors 121-88.

Caveat: since stats were not collected accurately and thoroughly enough for players in the early 70’s and earlier to qualify for this list.

If they could Wilt Chamberlain’s game on 3/22/1962 where he scored 56 points and 35(!) rebounds as well as Elgin Baylor’s game on 4/14/1962 where he score 61 with 22 rebounds would surely make the list.

The Best NBA Playoff Performances of All Time
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