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Top Performances of the 2016-17 NBA Playoffs

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So far this NBA postseason, there have been a myriad of top-level performers churning out historic performances. From King James to IT to the Claw, these playoffs have been inundated with spectacular and record-setting play by several stars from around the league. Which performance is the best? Now, that is hard to say, but certainly Isaiah Thomas’ 53-point outburst, several of LeBron James’ performances, and definitely Russell Westbrook’s record-setting playoff triple double are close to the top of the list. As the playoffs head into conference finals, there certainly is more magic to come, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the best performances thus far this post-season.

Isaiah Thomas – 53 points versus the Washington Wizards in Game 2 of Eastern Conference quarterfinals

After dealing with the tragic death of his younger sister Chyna, Isaiah Thomas heroically honored his late sister in an epic performance in Game 2 of the eastern conference quarterfinals. Thomas scored 53 points, 20 of which came in the fourth quarter and in overtime, while leading his team to an early 2-0 lead in the series. The 53 points was the second-highest single game scoring output ever by a Celtics’ player. This is saying a lot, considering all of the hall-of-famers and icons that have played in Boston.

The Celtics’ diminutive dynamo, while also still dealing with dental issues created from getting his tooth knocked out the game prior, turned in a courageous performance likely to be remembered by the Celtics’ faithful for a very long time. It was not only the production, but it was the way, in the face of heart-break and tragedy, IT managed to fuel himself and his team to victory that captivated so many. IT had his way with the Wizards. Considering all that IT had been going through, his performance was EXTRA-ordinary.

LeBron James – 41 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists versus the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the first round

Let’s be honest. The King is on a historic tear during his first eight games of the playoffs. He is averaging 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game, with a 66.3 true-shooting percentage. This is the best individual playoff start of his career. So, we could really choose probably almost anyone of the King’s performances for this list. This being said, the best performance thus far for James was probably the triple double in Game 3 versus the Pacers. With the Cavs down 74-49 at the half, James proceeded to lead the biggest comeback in playoff history for his squad. The shots, assists, and plays that James was able to make during this game is stuff legend. Ultimately, James and the Cavs demoralized the Pacers with their come from behind win. James, like he has been during the playoffs, was extremely efficient, shooting 6-12 from three-point range, while shooting 52 percent from the field by going 14-27.

Russell Westbrook – 51 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists, 4 steals versus the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the first round

Russell Westbrook’s 1st ever 50-point triple double was historic for the playoffs, and despite the Rockets’ fairly quick disposal of the Thunder in five games, Westbrook posted some absurd numbers. As impressive as James’ triple double was versus the Pacers, Westbrook’s feat was probably even more impressive considering it was the first of its kind while scoring 50 points. Westbrook caught some flak for shooting almost every ball that came to him, going 17-43 from the floor and 2-11 from behind the arc. Westbrook’s 43 field goal attempts are the most since Michael Jordan fired them up versus the Phoenix Suns in the finals in 1993. But, what else is a player who has carried his team all season posting the second ever triple double in NBA history to do when his squad’s back is against the wall? Obviously, Westbrook’s default, for better or for worse, is to try to make it happen by himself. He made history, but his team lost the game and ultimately the series. However, on an individual basis, Westbrook’s performance was ridiculous.

James Harden – 44 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds versus the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of the first round

Despite losing game 3 against the Thunder, the Rockets’ James Harden posted a valiant effort going for 44 points, while also remaining perfect (18-18) from the line. Although Westbrook probably won the statistical matchup during the round 1 series, the Bearded One and his squad were able to walk away with a series win. However, during the series, Harden posted 33 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds a night. In the end, the 4-1 series defeat of the Thunder was most certainly the most important number for Harden.

John Wall – 40 points, 13 assists, 3 steals versus the Boston Celtics in game # 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals

Game 2 of the Boston vs. Washington series was epic, to say the very least. The ying to Isaiah Thomas’ yang during this game was the Wizards’ John Wall, who put on a performance another level up in his own right. Scoring 40 points and tallying 13 assists, Wall was going right back at IT, not backing down an inch. Wall and Thomas combined for an absurd 93 points over the course of the game. Wall showed why he deserves to be mentioned as one of the elite point guards in the league. With both athleticism and playmaking ability on full display, Wall dazzled. However, despite the high level performance by Wall, it just happened to be Thomas’ and Boston’s night as they came away with the victory.

Kawhi Leonard – 40 points, 13 rebounds, 19-19 FT performance versus the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of the first round

Leonard has posted several stellar performances during this year’s playoffs, maybe the most impressive one coming in a win against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of the first round. Leonard displayed his versatile skill set by crashing the glass while also scoring big for his Spurs. His ultra-aggressive mentality paid dividends by him getting to the foul line a bunch. Leonard took advantage of his charity stripe opportunities. Only missing two free throws all series, Leonard made history in game 2 by going 19-19 from the line. Only Dirk Nowitzki (24 for 24) and Paul Pierce (21 for 21) have made more free throws while remaining perfect during a playoff game.

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About Jake Rauchbach

Jake Rauchbach

After playing four years of college basketball at Drexel University, Jake Rauchbach coached at the collegiate level, founded The MindRight Pro Program and trained numerous professional and Olympic athletes. Now, Rauchbach writes about the NBA and college basketball for Basketball Insiders and serves as the Player Performance Specialist for Temple University's men's basketball team.