The start of NBA playoffs is met with applause and increased anticipations. Avid basketball fans always wait for the culmination of the season and that is what the playoffs bring to viewers. 8 teams from each division come face to face to determine the 2 participants of the NBA finals.
Michael Jordan still holds the record of the most points (63) in a game against the Celtics in 1986. Out of 10 highest scoring games in the playoffs, 5 come from Michael Jordan. Most recently Donovan Mitchell scored 57 points for the Utah Jazz, in the 2020 NBA Bubble Playoffs in Orlando. Let’s have a look at top performances in the playoffs.
4. Charles Barkley – 56 points
Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan also scored 56 points, but we chose Barkley because he achieved the feat more recently. On May 4, 1994, Phoenix forward Charles Barkley scored 56 points in the third game of the first round of the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. The game ended 140-133 in favor of the Suns. Barkley made 23 of 31 shots from the game (including 3 of 4 three-pointers) and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line. The round mound of rebound also recorded 14 rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
In this game Barkley set the record for the first half of an NBA playoff game with 38 points in the first 2 quarters. The second-half record goes to Sleepy Floyd. In 1987, Floyd scored 39 points for Golden State against the Lakers (129-121) in the second half (for the entire game 51). Maybe it just took him some time to wake up?
Barkley had a stellar career but he is one of those players who never won a championship title. He was a giant of his era, but the lack of a championship has always reflected not so positively his overall reputation and achievments. Just another victim of number 23 for Chicago.
3. Donovan Mitchell – 57 points
In August 2020 against the Denver Nuggets, in the first round of the playoffs, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell scored 57 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, which unfortunately ended in a loss for his side. However, Mitchell’s stellar performance is remembered. He had a near perfect match but this was not enough to win. The game was very tense and both teams had chances to win but eventually, the Nuggets prevailed. The latter then made their way into the Conference Finals, losing against Davis and Lebron’s Lakers.
Mitchell scored the highest amount of points in the NBA playoffs as part of a losing team. It should also be noted that only Mitchell was relatively young, 24, when he went on to record such an impressive performance against on the biggest of Basketball stages. He was brilliant throughout the Playoffs and has rebounded from the loss, helping to lead the Jazz to the best record in the NBA in 2021.
In this game Mitchell also broke Jazz legend Karl Malone’s single game Playoff points record, 50, having the best playoff performance in the history of the Jazz franchise. Mitchell is currently considered one of the best players in the league. He never disappears in the playoffs and always causes numerous problems for defenders.
2. Elgin Baylor – 61 points – Finals
Almost 59 years ago on April 14, 1962, legendary Lakers forward Elgin Baylor demonstrated the highest individual performance in NBA Finals history. For some Baylor is one of the most underrated players in the history of the NBA. In game 5 against the Celtics, Baylor scored 61 points, making 22 of 46 shots for the game and 17 of 19 from the free-throw line. Baylor also recorded 22 rebounds, more than a third of his teams total! Helping the Lakers win 126-121. It is worth noting that in that season Baylor failed to become a Champion, the Celtics won the next two matches and won the series 4 – 3. On the opposing side, another legend – Bill Russell – was playing. The winner of 11 NBA championship titles. Baylor eventually managed to win a title a decade later in 1972.
1. Michael Jordan – 63 points
Of course, the list would be incomplete without Michael Jordan, who delivered many of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history. His game against the Celtics in 1986 cannot be explained with words. Just 2 seasons into the league and against one of the best sides in NBA history Jordan managed to score 63 points at Bsoton Garden – a temple – where many championship banners testify to the wonders of the past, against a team that were in the midst of adding to that legacy. He did so on the same court that Elgin Baylor, who scored 61 points for the Lakers 24 years ago. He did it in front of 15,000 noisy Bostonians, cheering for The Legend to bring home another title. Jordan created his masterpiece on the court of the basketball Sistine Chapel, and in order to climb there, he did not need a ladder. Michael could fly without any problems.
Of the 41 made shots from the entire team, 22 were Jordan’s, some of which were virtually impossible to execute. For the sake of these throws, he had to make incredible moves, make a feint with his shoulder, use his hips before beating Dennis Johnson or Ainge, then make a pirouette, twice rock the opponent in different directions, shoot a pass through the hands of Kevin McHale, Robert Parish or Bill Walton. Still, it was not enough because the Bulls would lose the match and the 86 Celtics would become legend. Michael Jordan’s performance only drew acclaims at the time and has aged like a fine French wine. It would take 4 more years for him to eventually reach the finals and become an NBA Champion. But the league new, from this day in 1986 that Michael Jordan wasn’t just another flash guard. He was a lethal scorer, a tenacious defender and it was only a matter of time before he would light the NBA on fire and claim his throne.
Perhaps it was also surprising that we do not see Kobe Bryant or LeBron James on this list. When it comes to playoffs scoring over 50 points is really difficult to do and over 60 – seems out of this world. Compared to the past, in modern basketball, it has become a bit easier to score more in the playoffs, but breaking Jordan’s record looks unbelievable – even now.