The NBA's 10 Greatest Postseason Performances

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IApril 15, 2009

2 May 1991:  Guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls (left) and guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers fight for the ball during Game One of the NBA finals at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Lakers won the game, 93-91. Mandatory Cred

With the start of the playoffs just a few days away, I thought we should look back at the league's greatest individual performances in the postseason. 

10. Michael Jordan's 63-Point Game (Game Two of 1986 First Round Series)

Jordan scored a playoff-record 63 points against the dominant Celtics, as he shot 22-41 from the field and 19-21 from the free throw line, in a 135-131 double overtime loss. After the game, in the Celtics locker room, Celtics legend Larry Bird said, "I think he's God disguised as Michael Jordan." Also, guard Danny Ainge on Jordan, "Everyone knew Michael was an excellent player, but I think this was the first time everyone realized how great he was." 

9. James Worthy's Triple-Double (Game Seven of the 1988 Finals)

In Game Seven of the Finals against the Pistons, Worthy led the Lakers to a 108-105 victory to win their second consecutive title after head coach Pat Riley guaranteed a repeat in the parade after the 1987 title. Worthy cemented his nickname of "Big Game James," as he scored 36 points, had 16 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists, as the Lakers became the first team to repeat since the 1969 Celtics. 

8. Walt Frazier's Legendary Game vs. the Lakers (Game Seven of 1970 Finals)

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Frazier's legendary performance was overshadowed by Willis Reed's inspiring entrance, as he was seriously injured, but the Knicks couldn't have survived without Frazier. He had 36 points, 19 assists and seven rebounds while also playing amazing defense on Jerry West, to lead the Knicks to their first championship in franchise history. 

7. Elgin Baylor Scores a Record 61 Points (Game Five of 1962 Finals)

Baylor scored a then playoff-record 61 points against the dominant Celtics, along with grabbing an amazing 22 rebounds, even though he was only 6'5". His 61 points is still a Finals record, as he led the Lakers to a 126-121 win to take a 3-2 lead in the series, before the Celtics came back to win the title. 

6. Bob Petit Scores 50 Against the Celtics (Game Six of 1958 Finals)

Petit briefly single handedly interrupted the Celtics dynasty as he led the Hawks over the Celtics in six games with a dominating 50 point performance. He scored 19 of his team's final 21 points, including the game-clincher, which was a tip-in with 15 seconds left in regulation. After the game, Petit said, "We had to win that game, we did not want to have to go to Boston to try to win game seven."

5. Bill Russell Has 30 Points/40 Rebounds (Game Seven of 1962 Finals)

In an epic overtime game against the rival Lakers, the all-time greatest winner in the league's history came up with an amazing performance, as Russell scored 30 points and grabbed 40 rebounds as he led his Celtics in a 110-107 victory over the Lakers. This Finals was the beginning of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, the first of six meetings, with the Celtics winning every one of them. 

4. Michael Jordan's Flu Game (Game Five of 1997 Finals)

With the series tied at 2-2 and the momentum in Utah's favor, Jordan played his most inspirational game of his brilliant career. Jordan, playing with severe food poisoning, was doubtful to play, but he ended up scoring 38 points on 13-27 shooting, including the go-ahead three point shot with less than a minute remaining, to finish with 15 fourth quarter points. The Bulls went on to win game six and their fifth championship and their second straight. 

3. LeBron Dominates the Pistons in the Fourth Quarter/OT (Game Five of 2007 East Finals)

This was the game LeBron James became a legend. Lebron scored nine points in the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime, and then took over, as he made the game-winning layup with less than a minute left to lead the Cavaliers to within one game of the franchise's first Finals appearance. Overall, Lebron scored his team's last 25 points and 29 of the team's last 30 points. The Cavs eventually won Game Six to advance to the Finals, before losing to the Spurs

2. Isiah Thomas Scores 43 on an Injured Ankle (Game Six of 1988 Finals)

Isiah Thomas scored a playoff record 25 points in the third quarter, as he hit 11 of his 13 shots. Isiah scored 14 consecutive points in the quarter, but then sprained his ankle after landing on Michael Cooper. He returned shortly after to lead the Pistons to a lead, before the Lakers took over in the last minute of the game to win. Overall, Isiah scored 43 points, had eight assists and six steals, as he played with a jammed pinkie, a poked eye, a scratched face, and a severely sprained right ankle. 

1. Magic Johnson Fills In for Kareem vs. the Sixers (Game Six of 1980 Finals)

It was Game Six of the Finals, with the Lakers leading the series, 3-2, and reigning MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar wasn't able to play with an injured ankle. The Lakers had all but conceded the game as they let Kareem stay in his home in L.A. However, rookie Magic Johnson wasn't ready to go to Game Seven. 

Magic started at center and played all five positions as he dominated the 76ers in Philadelphia to stun the crowd and the Sixers. When it was all done, Magic had scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, had seven assists, three steals, and one blocked shot as he led the Lakers to a 123-107 victory, and the first of five titles in the '80s, and his first Finals MVP award.

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