LeBron James, Michael Jordan and the 20 Best Players on the Road in the Playoffs
There were some incredible performances in front of hostile crowds during the 2011 NBA Playoffs, but none of them were better than some classic crowd-killers displayed by Michael Jordan, LeBron James and other stars over the last 20-years of NBA history.
HipHopSite.com’s excellent “Murdered You On Your Own $#!t” Awards inspired a new series of articles at the Miami Heat Index. The first article, Did the King Murder Wade On His Own Team focused on whether LeBron outplayed Dwyane Wade on his own team last season.
This article will focus on players who went on the road and murdered the other team on their own court in front of their own crowd and on the biggest stage: the playoffs.
In the last 20-years, 21 players have murdered the other team on their own court by scoring 40+ points on the road in an NBA playoff game, according to basketball-reference.com. The"Murdered You On Your Own $#!t" Award Series: NBA Playoffs Edition ranked players by the number of 40-point games on the road. All ties went to the player with the higher Win Score per 48 Minutes average (WS48).
See the article Simple Models of Player Performance by sports economist David Berri for more information on Win Score.
Without any further ado, the awards go to...
Honorable Mention: Russell Westbrook
Player: Russell Westbrook
One murder: At Memphis Grizzlies on May 9, 2011
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, the surprising Grizzlies stormed onto the Oklahoma City Thunder’s home court wearing San Antonio Spurs for souvenirs and smacked Durant & Co. around for a 13-point win and home court advantage.
Down 2-1 with revenge on his mind, Westbrook used his trademark mix of kamikaze attacks on the paint and pull-up jumpers to score 40 points on 46 percent shooting with five rebounds and five assists in a triple OT win at “The Mailbox” in Memphis to tie the Western Conference Semifinals at 2-2.
Westbrook had the second-lowest Win Score of the Murdered You On Your Own $#!t Awards: NBA Playoffs Edition, but has plenty of time left in his career to move up the list. LeBron James is the only player to crack the list at a younger age than the Thunder's all-star point guard.
20. Karl Malone
Player: Karl Malone
Malone shot 2-of-20 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals and the Jazz got blown out by 20 points in the Great Western Forum.
The Mailman returned two days later and missed eight of his first 10 shots to start Game 4, but he finished with 42 points on 44 percent shooting, an NBA playoff record 18 consecutive free throws and nine rebounds to deliver a 15-point blowout and 3-1 series lead to the Jazz.
The Jazz won the series 4-1 after a rookie named Kobe Bryant air-balled the Lakers out of the playoffs in the fourth quarter and overtime.
19. Chauncey Billups
Player: Chauncey Billups
One murder: At Orlando Magic on May 2, 2003
Tracy McGrady said it would feel good to get to the second round after the Orlando Magic took a 3-1 series lead over the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2003 playoffs. The Pistons blew the Magic out by 31 points in Game 5 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
In Game 6, Chauncey Billups murdered McGrady on his own court–the TD Waterhouse Center. Mr. Big Shot dropped 40 points on 63 percent shooting with four rebounds and four assists to get the Pistons a 15-point win and Game 7 at home, where they would close out the series.
18. Dwyane Wade
Player: Dwyane Wade
One murder: At Washington Wizards on May 14, 2005
With Shaquille O’Neal in a suit with a thigh bruise, the second-year baller formerly known as Flash scored 22 points in the third quarter without missing a shot to give the Heat an 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter at the MCI Center.
Dwyane Wade finished with a franchise playoff-record 42-point game (he's since broken it), 59 percent shooting and seven rebounds to give the Heat a 3-0 lead in the 2005 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Heat went on to sweep the Wizards and took a 3-2 lead on the defending champion Pistons but lost in seven games after a rib injury sustained in Game 5 limited Wade in Game 7. Who knew history would repeat itself six years later in the NBA Finals?
17. Tracy McGrady
Player: Tracy McGrady
One murder: At Detroit Pistons on April 20, 2003
McGrady led the 8th-seeded Magic into the Palace at Auburn Hills and pulled off a coup in Game 1 as he blasted the Pistons with 43 points on 59 percent shooting and seven rebounds.
At one point, he scored 12-straight points in the second half to keep the game out of reach. Of course, Chauncey Billups returned the favor in Game 6, and T-Mac is still looking for his first playoff series victory to this day.
16. Nick Van Exel
Player: Nick Van Exel
One murder: At Sacramento Kings on May 10, 2003
What was expected to be a match of soft vs. softer turned out to be a classic playoff series after the Kings walked into the American Airlines Center and beatdown the Mavericks by double-digits.
After Mark Cuban’s crew soaked up their blood, sweat and tears from Game 1 with the fluffiest towels in the league, Van Exel went hard-off the bench for 36 points to help them return the favor in Game 2 with a 22-point win. He was just getting started, though.
Nickey Max went “supersub” in Game 4 and simply had more bullets than everyone else as the game turned into a 141-137 Sacto shootout won by the Mavs. Steve Nash hit the Kings for 31 and 11,Dirk Nowitzki emptied his clip for 25 and 20 andPeja Stojakovic fired away for 39 points (5-10 from three) but Van Exel’s jumper sent the game into overtime and he kept banging away for 40 points on 65 percent shooting (6-12 from three), seven rebounds and seven assists.
The Mavs went on to win the series in seven games.
15. Rex Chapman
Player: Rex Chapman
One murder: At Seattle Supersonics on April 25, 1997
In 1996, Chapman started at guard for a Miami Heat team that got swept out the first round of the playoffs by the greatest team of all-time, the ‘96 Chicago Bulls, to the tune of 23-points per game. The Heat renounced their rights to Chapman’s contract in the offseason.
A year later, he and the seventh-seed Phoenix Suns went into Game 1 of the playoffs against the Sonics and Chapman made it rain in Seattle. He set an NBA record by dropping nine three-pointers in Key Arena on his way to scoring 42 points with 75 percent shooting efficiency.
The Suns pushed the Sonics to the brink of elimination but they got blown out by 24 in the decisive Game 5 at Seattle. As much as Chapman shot them into series in Game 1, Kevin Johnson shot them out of it in Game 5 by going 8-27 from the floor.
14. Paul Pierce
Player: Paul Pierce
One murder: At Indiana Pacers on April 19, 2003
This may be the shortest murder of the list. Pierce shot 4-19 through three quarters at Conseco Fieldhouse and the Celtics trailed by 13 with 7:30 left in the game. Pierce scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and 42 points for the game with 40 percent shooting efficiency, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Pierce posted the worst shooting percentage of anyone that murdered a team on their own floor in the last 20 years, but he balanced it out by shooting 21-21 from the line to set an NBA record.
The sixth-seed Celtics went on to upset the third-seed Pacers in six games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they were swept by Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets.
13. Chris Mullin
Player: Chris Mullin
One murder: At Los Angeles Lakers on May 8, 1991
Run TMC won three games in a row to upset David Robinson and the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs 3-1 in the first round of the 1991 playoffs. The Lakers ended that three-game winning streak with a 10-point win in Game 1 that extended the Warriors 22-year playoff losing streak in Los Angeles.
Everything changed in Game 2.
Mullin left blood on the floor of the Great Western Forum as he scored 41 points with 86 percent shooting efficiency. It was the third-best shooting performance of the Murdered You On Your Own $#!t Award Series: NBA Playoffs Editionand just enough to overcome Magic Johnson’s 44 points (a career playoff-high), 12 rebounds, nine assists and five turnovers.
The Warriors needed every efficient shot Mullin fired in order to overcome a 21-rebound deficit on the glass and 15-shot deficit from the free throw line. Thanks to Mullins’ shooting efficiency and Magic’s turnovers, the Warriors won the other two factors.
Mullin’s shooting kept the game close enough for Rod Higgins and Mario Elie to steal it with two key rebounds and three clutch free throws. The Warriors’ playoff losing streak in Los Angeles was over but so was their playoff run. The Lakers eliminated them in five games.
12. Tony Parker
Player: Tony Parker
One murder: At Phoenix Suns on April 25, 2008
If Suns fans thought Steve Nash got beat up by the Spurs in 2007 when he got hip checked by Robert Horry or busted his nose, then they know he got absolutely murdered right in front of them in 2008. Nash got killed by Parker so bad the Suns switched Grant Hill onto him in the second half but it was too late.
Parker scored a career-high 41 points with 67 percent shooting efficiency, 12 assists and five rebounds. He left Nash’s corpse with seven points on eight shots and left the Suns facing elimination from the playoffs. Two games later, the Spurs sent them home for the third time in four years.
11. Ray Allen
Player: Ray Allen
One murder: At Sacramento Kings on May 1, 2005
Another edition of the Murdered On Your Own $#!t Award Series takes place in Sacramento. In the last article, it was Nick Van Exel. This time, Allen put in the wetwork at Arco Arena to bring the Sonics back from a 19-point deficit. The NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers splashed three treys in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback and book a 13-point win.
Allen scored 45 points (15 in the fourth quarter) with 71 percent shooting efficiency, six assists, four steals and two blocks to give the Sonics a 3-1 series lead going back to Seattle.
Two nights later, the Kings were eliminated in the first round for the first time since 2000 and they haven’t made it out of the first round since.
10. Derrick Rose
Player: Derrick Rose
One murder: At Atlanta Hawks on May 6, 2011
The Hawks flew into the United Center for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls a major underdog. They punched the regular season beasts of the east in the mouth and walked out with first blood and a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 3 in the series was the Hawks’ chance to really take the Bulls by the horns and a 2-1 series lead.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, the media’s MVP had other plans.
Rose produced 44 points with 67 percent shooting efficiency, five rebounds and seven assists to lead the Bulls to a 17-point blowout victory. Rose produced the ninth-best Win Score of the “Murdered You On Your Own $#!t” Award Series: NBA Playoffs Edition.
The Bulls took control of the series and eliminated the Hawks in six games.
Rose was cold-blooded in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semis, but things got a little too hot for him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
9. Kevin Johnson
Player: Kevin Johnson
One murder: At Houston Rockets on May 14, 1995
The 1995 Western Conference Semifinals between the third-seed Phoenix Suns and sixth-seed Rockets is one of the most bizarre playoff series in NBA history. The Suns won the first two games at home by a combined 46 points. The Rockets won Game 3 in Houston by 33 points. Then things got interesting.
It looked like the series was headed for another blowout as the Rockets took a 15-point lead in the third quarter, but KJ exploded for 24 points in the second half and the Suns left The Summit with a 3-1 series lead.
The mayor of Sacramento destroyed Kenny Smith and Sam Cassell with an unstoppable arsenal of crossovers, pick-and-rolls and pull-up jumpers.
Some people believe that Kenny walks funny today from getting crossed up by KJ so many times in this game. When the Rockets tried to play off KJ, he rained jumpers on them. When they tried to overplay him, he either dove backdoor or split the defense off the pick-and-roll. It was a masterful performance.
KJ scored 43 points with 79 percent shooting efficiency, six rebounds, nine assists and three steals. He produced the sixth-best Win Score in the last 20 years by a player that scored 40 or more points.
Here’s the bizarre part: the Suns lost the next three games and the series ended with a “Kiss of Death” from Mario Elie. How the Rockets came back to win that series has to be one of the great mysteries in NBA history.
8. Jason Richardson
Player: Jason Richardson
One murder: At Portland Trailblazers on April 22, 2010
Here’s another classic case of revenge.
The always-injured Trailblazers went into the US Airways Center for Game 1 of the 2010 playoffs shorthanded–with Brandon Roy and Greg Oden out from knee injuries. They left with a 105-100 win.
Richardson returned the favor in spades for Game 3. He scored 42 points with 89 percent shooting efficiency, eight rebounds and three steals to lead the Suns to a 19-point blowout victory that gave them control of the series.
The ruthlessly efficient Richardson gave Rip City fans the best shooting display on this list and the second-most productive playoff game in the last 20 years by a big-time scorer.
The Suns won the series in six games by closing the Blazers out in front of their own crowd. As Ja Rule would say, "It's murdaaa..."
7. Dirk Nowitzki
Player: Dirk Nowitzki
Two murders. Highlight: At Portland Trailblazers on April 25, 2003
There are only six seconds of good video from Dirk’s best road game in the playoffs? Sounds about right.
The Dallas Mavericks had a tough playoff run in 2003, but it didn’t start out that way.
The Mavs took a 3-0 series lead in their first round matchup against the always-injured Blazers–with Scottie Pippen and Derek Anderson out after knee injuries. Doesn’t it seem like it’s always the knees in Portland?
Dirk led the Mavs in Game 3 by scoring 42 points with 88 percent shooting efficiency, 10 rebounds and two steals. Between Nowitzki and Richardson, Rip City saw the two best shooting performances in the last 20 years while their team was getting murdered on their own floor.
Portland fans probably weren’t worried about that in 2003 as the Blazers won the next three games to force a Game 7 in Dallas. The Mavs won and advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals where Nick Van Exel would murder the Sacramento Kings on their own $#!t.
Eight years later, an older and much less productive Dirk murdered the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Ford Center in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals with 40 points, 65 percent shooting efficiency and five rebounds.
6. Hakeem Olajuwon
Player: Hakeem Olajuwon
Two murders. Highlight: At San Antonio Spurs on May 24, 1995
It all began innocently enough with David Stern handing David Robinson the 1995 MVP award. Olajuwon snapped sometime during that ceremony. In a homicidal rage, he proceeded to murder one of the nicest guys in the NBA (they named the Community Assist Award after him) right in front of his home crowd and his MVP trophy.
When it was all over, and the blood started to dry on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, Olajuwon had scored 41 points with 58 percent shooting efficiency, 16 rebounds, three steals, four assists and two blocks to lead the Rockets to a 106-96 win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals and a 2-0 series lead heading back to Houston.
In an odd twist, the Spurs won both games on the road and came back to the Alamodome tied 2-2 with the Rockets and very much alive in the series.
Olajuwon murdered them again in Game 5 by scoring 42 points with 63 percent shooting efficiency, nine rebounds, eight assists and five blocks to power the Rockets to a 21-point blowout and kill any hopes of redemption for Robinson. The Rockets won Game 6 and The Admiral admitted there was no solution for the Olajuwon problem.
The Rockets went on to win the 1995 NBA Finals by sweeping the Orlando Magic to complete their “Murder You On Your Own Shit” Award Tour through the playoffs. As the sixth-seed in the West, they eliminated the top three-seeds in their conference and the No. 1 seed from the Eastern Conference.
It’s a run that hasn’t been duplicated since Olajuwon went straight Keyser Soze on the NBA in 1995.
5. Charles Barkley
Player: Charles Barkley
Two murders. Highlight: At Golden State Warriors on May 4, 1994
Barkley led the Suns into Oakland, CA for Game 3 of the first round with a bad back and 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. He decided to get some extra rest for his back by posting the highest Win Score on the road in the last 20 years and completing the sweep of a Warriors team that evolved from Run TMC to Chris Mullin, Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell.
Barkley made his first 11 shots and finished with 27 points in the first quarter. According to the Los Angeles Times, he asked Golden State head coach Don Nelson if they were going to double-team him after he scored the Suns’ first 12 points.
Nelson chose not to double him and Barkley responded with an NBA playoff record 38 points in the first half. Sir Charles finished with 56 points (third-highest in NBA playoff history) with 79 percent shooting efficiency, 14 rebounds and three steals.
Barkley said after the game, “Obviously, I was making a lot of shots tonight. They kind of forced the issue by not doubling me. I hope it's not the last time I see single coverage. I kind of like it." He saw it one year later when he dropped 47 points in Portland to sweep the Trailblazers out the first round of the playoffs.
4. Allen Iverson
Player: Allen Iverson
Three murders. Highlight: At Los Angeles Lakers on June 6, 2001
The Lakers steamrolled through the 2001 NBA Playoffs and entered the Finals undefeated at 11-0. Game 1 of the series against Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers was a bloodbath.
The reigning MVP walked into the Staples Center and slaughtered Kobe Bryant. Iverson scored 48 points with 48 percent shooting efficiency, five rebounds, six assists and five steals. Kobe only scored 15 points with 32 percent shooting efficiency, three rebounds, six assists, six turnovers and four fouls.
Things got so bad after The Answer lit Kobe’s ass up for 30 points in the first half, that Phil Jackson had to switch Bryant (who was 2nd team all-defense) off Iverson and give the assignment to Tyronn Lue. Everyone knows how that ended for Lue in overtime.
Game 1 was the only game the Sixers won in the 2001 Finals, but it was a memorable one. Iverson is one of only two players to murder a team on their own floor in the Finals over the last 20 years.
Ironically, Iverson’s murder in the Finals was the least productive of his three murders in the playoffs. His other two great playoff games on the road were a double homicide against the Hornets franchise in Charlotte (2000) and New Orleans (2003). His murder in New Orleans was the rare elimination game murder to send the Hornets fishing in six games.
3. Kobe Bryant
Player: Kobe Bryant
Three murders. Highlight: At Sacrament Kings on May 13, 2001
Kobe’s killing spree started during the greatest playoff run in Lakers history. The 2001 Lakers only ranked 55th of 68 teams that made the NBA Finals from 1974-2007 in efficiency differential (points allowed per possession minus points scored per possession) at +3.6 points per 100 possessions. They went 15-1 in the playoffs with an efficiency differential of +13.9 points per 100 possessions to win the NBA Championship.
Kobe established himself as a great player during that incredible playoff run with back-to-back murders at Sacramento to sweep the Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals and at the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs to blow them out of Game 1 in the Western Conference Finals.
Jellybean committed his third murder eight years later in the 2009 Western Conference Finals against Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets.
2. LeBron James
Player: LeBron James
Three murders. Highlight: At Atlanta Hawks on May 9, 2009
LeBron produced the third-best Win Score on the list (32.9) with 47 points on 70 percent shooting (5-10 from beyond the arc), 12 rebounds and eight assists in Atlanta to put the Cavs up 3-0 against the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
His most famous highlight, of course, is the 48-special he murked the Pistons with in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
LeBron ended his third murder by going glass for the game-winner with 5.7 seconds left in Game 3 of the against the Wizards.
1. Michael Jordan
Player: Michael Jordan
Six murders. Highlight: At Miami Heat on April 29, 1992
Jordan's 56-point torture of the Heat to sweep them out of the franchise's first playoff series tied with Barkley for the highest scoring road game in the last 20 years of the NBA playoffs. He scored 56 points with 67 percent shooting efficiency, five rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.
While most of the murders on this list came in the early rounds of the playoffs, Jordan went big game hunting for his kills. He committed three of his murders in the Finals and his least productive Finals murder ended with his most enduring image.
Jordan’s first murder in the Finals came against the Portland Trailblazers in 1992 to secure Game 5 so the Bulls could close them out at home in Chicago. His second murder in the Finals came against Barkley in Phoenix. After the Bulls snatched Game 1 from the Suns, Jordan battled the MVP to a draw on their personal scoreboard with 42 points apiece but the Bulls won the game because Horace Grant gave His Airness more support than Danny Ainge could give Sir Charles.
Jordan’s two remaining murders were committed against the Hornets in 1995 when he returned from baseball and the Magic in 1996 when he returned for revenge against the team that eliminated him from the playoffs the previous season.
This spreadsheet lists all the player stats for the “Murdered You On Your Own $#!t” Awards Series: NBA Playoffs Edition.
What are your favorite playoff performances on the road in NBA history by a player? What are your favorite playoff performances on the road in NBA history by a team?
Has any player in NBA history put together better games on the road in the playoffs than Michael Jordan? Has any team in NBA history put together a better playoff run on the road than the 1995 Houston Rockets?