What an incredible playoffs it was.
Unusual as it was having the postseason play out in the Disney Bubble, the basketball itself was as good as it's ever been. It felt like there was one historic performance after another, all the way from Luka Doncic's highly-anticipated debut to LeBron James' title-clinching triple-double.
But which performances were the best? That's the question we're going to answer today.
I got some help from our NBA.com Staff in putting a list together of the best performances, but I had a go at ordering them one through 10.
I didn't want there to be too much overlap, so I limited it to only one performance per game. That's why you won't see Nikola Jokic's triple-double and Jamal Murray's 40-pointer against the LA Clippers in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals or Jimmy Butler's 35-point triple-double and LeBron's 40-point, 13-rebound double-double from Game 5 of the Finals. It was one or the other.
One more note: You'll notice that each performance has a Game Score, which is a metric that gives a "rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game." As explained on Basketball Reference, a Game Score of 40 is considered to be outstanding, whereas 10 is considered average. It's not the be-all, end-all, but it helps to provide context.
With that in mind, onto the list!
10. Kawhi Leonard's Game 6 vs. Dallas Mavericks (First Round)
Stats: 33 points (14-23 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT), 14 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals
Game Score: 33.6
The Mavericks made things interesting in their first-round series with the Clippers, but Leonard had the last laugh.
Leonard sent the Mavericks packing with an all-around performance that saw him score 33 points, pull down 14 rebounds, hand out seven assists and come up with five steals.
It was the fifth straight game that Leonard scored 30 points, the longest such streak of his postseason career.
33 PTS / 14 REB / 7 AST / 5 STL@kawhileonard is the first player in franchise history to notch at least 30 points and five steals in a playoff game. pic.twitter.com/p0YEH3Ws30- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) August 31, 2020
Leonard ended up averaging 32.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game against the Mavericks in the first round while shooting 53.8 percent from the field. A dominant series from the two-time Finals MVP.
9. Kyle Lowry's Game 6 vs. Boston Celtics (Conference Semifinals)
Stats: 33 points (12-20 FG, 6-10 3PT, 3-4 FT), 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Game Score: 29.7
In what was arguably the best game of the playoffs, Lowry's star shined the brightest.
Facing the possibility of being eliminated, Lowry did everything to lead the Toronto Raptors to a double overtime victory in Game 6 of their second-round series with the Celtics, scoring a game-high 33 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists in 53 minutes of play.
The Raptors got a scoring punch off the bench from Norman Powell in the overtime periods to come up with the win, but Lowry provided the knockout blow with a tough fadeaway over Kemba Walker in the closing seconds of the second overtime.
Just a vintage performance from the six-time All-Star to force a Game 7.
How can one not respect Kyle Lowry? #WeTheNorth- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) September 10, 2020
53 Mins | 33 Pts | 8 Reb | 6 Ast | 6 3pm pic.twitter.com/fDo0OclZId
8. Nikola Jokic's Game 7 vs. LA Clippers (Conference Semifinals)
Stats: 16 points (5-13 FT, 0-4 3PT, 6-6 FT), 22 rebounds, 13 assists
Game Score: 23.3
Game Score will tell you that this wasn't even Jokic's most productive game of the playoffs, but it was easily his most impressive - to me, at least.
In a Game 7 against a Clippers team that many picked to win it all this season, Jokic dominated with a 16-point, 22-rebound, 13-assist triple-double. Though he shot only 5-for-13 from the field, he had complete control over the game and outplayed both Leonard and Paul George.
Us: Probably gonna need a big Nikola performance to win Game 7- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) September 16, 2020
Nikola: I gotchu #MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/qjTqTvSMDK
It was the second time in Jokic's career that he's recorded a triple-double in a Game 7, his first coming against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of last postseason. According to StatMuse, Jokic's two Game 7 triple-doubles are the most in NBA history. (This is your reminder that Jokic is only 25 years old).
Additionally, Jokic joined Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan as the only players since the NBA-ABA merger to record a 20-rebound triple-double in the playoffs, per ESPN Stats and Info.
Led by Jokic's triple-double and Murray's 40 points, the Nuggets defeated the Clippers to complete their second 3-1 comeback of the playoffs and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2009.
7. LeBron James' Game 6 vs. Miami Heat (Finals)
Stats: 28 points (13-20 FG, 1-5 3PT, 1-4 FT), 14 rebounds, 10 assists
Game Score: 29.2
Following an epic battle with Jimmy Butler in Game 5 of the Finals - more on that in a second - Butler came back down to earth. James ... did not.
James followed up his 40-point, 13-rebound double-double in Game 5 with a 28-point, 14-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in Game 6, doing so on an efficient 13-for-20 shooting from the field while committing only one turnover.
James set the tone in what turned out to be a dominant win for the Lakers, leading them to their 17th title in franchise history and earning him his fourth championship, as well as his fourth Finals MVP award.
28 PTS | 14 REB | 10 AST | 61.8 FPTS- NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) October 12, 2020
LeBron James. Triple-double. NBA Champion. 🏆 pic.twitter.com/pM1GRZHHxJ
That marked the third career triple-double for James in a Finals-clinching win, per ESPN Stats and Info, breaking a tie with Magic Johnson for the most all-time. It also marked his 11th career triple-double in the Finals, extending his lead over Johnson for the most ever.
6. Jimmy Butler's Game 5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Finals)
Stats: 35 points (11-19 FG, 1-3 3PT, 12-12 FT), 12 rebounds, 11 assists
Game Score: 41.3
Butler was dominant in Miami's second and final win against Los Angeles in the Finals, finishing with his second triple-double of the series to the tune of 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
In the process, Butler became only the second player in NBA history - the other being James - to record multiple 30-point triple-doubles in a single NBA Finals.
Butler went toe-to-toe with James, who exploded for 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, culminating in an unforgettable back-and-forth down the stretch.
👀 the TOP PLAYS down the stretch of #NBAFinals Game 5 thriller, won by the @MiamiHEAT! #HEATTwitter- NBA (@NBA) October 10, 2020
Game 6: Sunday - 7:30pm/et, ABC pic.twitter.com/QWKwfeH2Gp
The Heat outscored the Lakers 15-9 in the clutch in Game 5. Butler was responsible for 11 of those points, outscoring the Lakers as a team all by himself.
5. LeBron James' Game 5 vs. Denver Nuggets (Conference Finals)
Stats: 38 points (15-25 FG, 1-4 3PT, 7-8 FT), 16 rebounds, 10 assists
Game Score: 37.3
Close out LeBron strikes again.
In Game 5 against the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, James put up 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to punch the Lakers' ticket to the Finals for the first time in a decade.
James took over in the fourth quarter with 16 points. He had one stretch where he scored nine straight points for the Lakers - all coming on jump shots - that served as the nail in the coffin.
It was yet another reminder that James is at his best when the lights shine brightest.
HIGHLIGHTS: @KingJames erupts for 38 pts, 16 reb and 10 ast to lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/RAvcnqd2d0- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) September 27, 2020
4. Donovan Mitchell's Game 4 vs. Denver Nuggets (First Round)
Stats: 51 points (15-27 FG, 4-7 3PT, 17-18 FT), 8 assists, 4 rebounds
Game Score: 39.4
Mitchell scored 50 points not once, but twice in Utah's first round series with Denver, the second of which gave the Jazz a 3-1 series lead.
With Mitchell scoring 51 points and Jamal Murray scoring 50, they became the first ever opposing players to score at least 50 points in the same game in the playoffs.
Mitchell took over when it mattered most, scoring 18 of his 51 points in the fourth quarter.
🎵 51 PTS, 7 AST- NBA (@NBA) August 24, 2020
🎵 2nd 50-point game of series
🎵 Utah takes 3-1 lead@spidadmitchell fuels the @utahjazz Game 4 W over Denver! #NBAPlayoffs #TakeNote #Drop40 x #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/Br4Y6F7umd
Mitchell's other 50-point game against the Nuggets in the first round came in Game 1. Unfortunately for Mitchell, it came in a losing effort.
3. Jamal Murray's Game 6 vs. Utah Jazz (First Round)
Stats: 50 points (17-24 FG, 9-12 3PT, 7-9 FT), 6 assists, 5 rebounds
Game Score: 38.3
Murray had a number of incredible games in the playoffs, but this one stands out the most.
With the Nuggets one loss away from elimination, Murray responded by scoring 42 points in Game 5 to keep their season alive, followed by 50 points in Game 6 to force a Game 7.
Murray did it on incredible efficiency in shooting 17-for-24 from the field, making him only the second player ever to score 50 points on at least 70 percent shooting from the field in a playoff game. Murray also joined Wilt Chamberlain and Sleepy Floyd as the only players in NBA history to score 50 points in an elimination game and became the fourth player in NBA history to have two 50-point games in the same series, the others being Mitchell, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan.
Jamal Murray could not be stopped! 😱- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 31, 2020
9-12 3-Pt FG
Can't wait for Game 7 🍿 pic.twitter.com/MSz3Ic2jkO
The Nuggets would go on to win Game 7 to complete their first of two 3-1 comebacks.
2. Luka Doncic's Game 4 vs. LA Clippers (First Round)
Stats: 43 points (18-31 FG, 4-10 3PT, 3-5 FT), 17 rebounds, 13 assists
Game Score: 37.6
Another historic triple-double.
Only two other players in NBA history have ever posted a 40-point, 15-rebound, 10-assist game in the playoffs. Those players? Charles Barkley and Oscar Roberston, both Hall of Famers.
Doncic capped off his 40-15-10 triple-double with a step back 3-pointer over Reggie Jackson to win the game in overtime, completing a 21-point comeback and making him the youngest player ever (21 years and 177 days) to hit a playoff buzzer-beater.
LUKA CALLED GAME pic.twitter.com/g7URYgcAoE- Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) August 23, 2020
Doncic's triple-double was made all the more impressive by him suffering an ankle injury the game before and the Mavericks being without Kristaps Porzingis, the team's second-leading scorer during the regular season.
1. Jimmy Butler's Game 3 vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Finals)
Stats: 40 points (14-20 FG, 0-0 3PT, 12-14 FT), 13 assists, 10 rebounds
Game Score: 42.0
A historic triple-double on the biggest stage.
In scoring 40 points, dishing out 13 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds, Butler became only the third player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double in the Finals, joining James and Jerry West. Butler also made history by becoming the first player ever to outscore, outrebound and outassist James in a Finals game, his teammates included.
That's quite the feat considering James has played 55 Finals games in his career, tied for the fourth-most all-time.
Jimmy Butler delivered an absolute #NBAFinals masterpiece in Game 3.- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) October 5, 2020
40 points (14-20 FG, 12-14 FT), 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 blocks & 2 steals.
🔥🎥 #HEATHighlights pic.twitter.com/cu5xiAMZy9
Butler's performance was much-needed, as both Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo missed the game with injuries. It prevented the Heat from falling into a 3-0 hole that would have put them on the verge of being swept.
Anthony Davis' Game 2 vs. Miami Heat (Finals) - 32 points (15-20 FG, 1-1 FT), 14 rebounds, 1 assist
Bam Adebayo's Game 6 vs. Boston Celtics (Conference Finals) - 32 points (11-15 FG, 10-11 FT), 14 rebounds, 5 assists
Jayson Tatum's Game 2 vs. Toronto Raptors (Conference Semifinals) - 34 points (8-17 FG, 14-14 FT), 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Jimmy Butler's Game 1 vs. Milwaukee Bucks (Conference Semifinals) - 40 points (13-20 FG, 12-13 FT), 4 rebounds, 2 assists
Giannis Antetokounmpo's Game 3 vs. Orlando Magic (First Round) - 35 points (12-14 FG, 9-12 FT), 11 rebounds, 7 assists
Anthony Davis' Game 5 vs. Portland Trail Blazers (First Round) - 43 points (14-18 FG, 11-13 FT), 9 rebounds, 4 assists
Donovan Mitchell's Game 1 vs. Denver Nuggets (First Round) - 57 points (19-33 FG, 13-13 FT), 9 rebounds, 7 assists
Fred VanVleet's Game 1 vs. Brooklyn Nets (First Round) - 30 points (11-15 FG, 8-10 FT), 11 assists, 2 rebounds
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