Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Top Scoring Performances in NBA Playoff History

Which players most dominated the NBA playoffs?  Since pace of play varied widely throughout history we can't just use total points.  Nor can we simply choose the players with the highest field goal percentage because they may have been low volume scorers or played during an inflated offensive era. 

League-wide shooting was on a steady upward trajectory from 1958 to 1985.  After a blip in the early '90s efficiency peaked in 1995 thanks to the shortened three-point line.  How should we compare players from radically different playing environments?

'Points Above Average' combines scoring with shooting efficiency and adjusts for era.  This metric shows Jerry West shining through the poor shooting 1960's and Stephen Curry producing at historic levels despite the high octane offensive game of today.

The list below shows the highest Total 'Points Above Average' during a single NBA playoff season going back to 1950...


Top Scoring Performances 
All-Time, Single NBA Playoffs






POINTS ABOVE TRUE POINTS/GAME


Playoffs Team NBA AVG. SHOOTING+ ABOVE AVG.
1 Kevin Durant 2012 OKC 102 122 5.1
2 LeBron James 2014 MIA 98 122 4.9
3 Manu Ginobili 2005 SAS 87 122 3.8
4 Kevin McHale 1988 BOS 85 124 5.0
5 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1974 MIL 80 119 5.0
6 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1977 LAL 80 126 7.2
7 Stephen Curry 2015 GSW 79 115 3.7
8 Jerry West 1968 LAL 78 120 5.2
9 Dirk Nowitzki 2011 DAL 76 115 3.6
10 Ray Allen 2001 MIL 75 120 4.2

Click here for the Top-50 scoring performances in NBA playoff history.