Damian Lillard went ballistic in Game 5 of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets. He dropped a double-nickel game with an NBA playoff record of 12 three-pointers. Several players, including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and numerous others, went on Twitter to write about how Lillard was doing something "God-like." Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game,
"Damian Lillard was superhuman"
Eight active players who have dropped 50+ points in an NBA playoff game
Only three active players have done so twice in their careers - Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray and now Damian Lillard. Lillard etched his way into NBA history after his 55-point performance. He wowed and dropped the jaws of everyone who tuned in to watch the Denver-Portland game. It's got people reminiscing about some of the other 50-point games in NBA playoff history, so let's take a look at the 8 active players who have done so.
#1 Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell put up the best NBA playoff performance of any active player in the 2020 NBA playoffs, which took place in the Orlando bubble. He dropped 57 points in Game 1 of the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs against the Denver Nuggets. Mitchell shot 19-33 (57.6%) from the field, including 6-15 (40%) from three-point range and made all 13 of his free-throw attempts.
However, in Game 4 of the same series, Mitchell and Nuggets' Jamal Murray went back and forth and scored a 50-piece each. It is the only game in NBA playoff history when two players scored 50+ points in the same game. Mitchell dropped 51 in that game on 15-27 (55.6%) shooting including 4-7 (57.1%) from beyond the arc while also making 17-18 free-throws.
Mitchell became the fourth player in NBA playoff history to score 50+points more than once in the same series, joining Jamal Murray, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan.
#2 Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook dropped 51 points against the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs. As we all know, it isn't a Russell Westbrook-type stat if it isn't a triple-double. He entered the record books in that game by becoming the first and only player in NBA playoff history with a 50-point triple-double. Westbrook dished out 13 dimes and grabbed 10 boards to go along with his 51 points.
Russell Westbrook accounted for 80 of his team's 111 points (72%) via points+assists, while also grabbing four steals and a block. Westbrook’s 13 assists tied a record for the most assists by a player with over 40 points in an NBA playoff game. He shot 17-43 (39.5%) from the floor including 2-11 (18.2%) from downtown while converting 15 of his 18 free-throw attempts.
Westbrook's 51-point performance marked a franchise record in the OKC Thunder's NBA playoff history.
#3 Isaiah Thomas
Many people don't remember Isaiah Thomas' glory days. He was regarded as one of the best small guards in NBA history during his prime with the Boston Celtics. He led his team to 53-wins and the 1st seed in the 2016-17 season while averaging 28.9 points per game.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals of the 2017 NBA playoffs, Thomas dropped 53 points against the Washington Wizards to lead the team to victory.
Isaiah Thomas dedicated the game to his late sister, saying,
"Today is my sister's birthday. She would have been 23 today. So everything I do is for her and she's watching over me. The least I could do is play for her"
Thomas shot 18-33 (54.5%) from the field including 5-12 (41.7%) from three-point range and knocked down 12-13 free-throws. He also had four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Thomas' 53-point performance was the second-highest scoring total by a Boston Celtics player in NBA playoff history.
#4 Kevin Durant
In a series-clinching Game 6, Kevin Durant dropped 50 points in 42 minutes against the LA Clippers in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs. He scored 38 of his 50 points in the first half itself, giving the Golden State Warriors a massive lead heading into halftime.
Durant shot 15-26 (57.7%) from the field, including 6-14 (42.9%) from downtown and made 14 of his 15 attempts from the charity stripe. He also had a steal and a block.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game,
"That was one of the great performances I've ever seen in my life. I’ve seen some good ones."
#5 LeBron James
LeBron James put up a monster performance in the 2018 NBA Finals against the star-studded Golden State Warriors. In Game 1 of the series, he went off for 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to lead the team to overtime. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn't stand up to the juggernaut offense of the Warriors.
LeBron James went 19-32 (59.4%) from the field including 3-7 (42.9%) from the three-point line and made 10-11 free-throws. He also had a steal and a block in that game.
It remains to be the most points scored in an NBA Finals game in a loss. Since 1970, only James and Michael Jordan have scored 50+ points in an NBA Finals game.
#6 Jamal Murray
In the same series as Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray went off for 50 points twice. In Game 4 of the first round of the 2020 NBA playoffs, he dropped 50 points against the Utah Jazz, the game in which Donovan Mitchell went for 51. Murray shot 18-31 (58.1%) from the field and 9-15 from beyond the arc while making all five of his free throws.
In Game 6 of the series, Jamal Murray went off for 50 points again on ridiculous efficiency to force a Game 7. He shot an incredible 17-24 (70.8%) from the field including 9-12 (75%) from three-point range and made 7-of-9 free throws.
Jamal Murray, along with Mitchell, became one of just four players in NBA history to score 50+ in the same playoff series. As mentioned earlier, Mitchell and Murray are also the only duo to put up 50 points in the same NBA playoff game. He was also one of three players born outside the U.S. to drop 50 in an NBA playoff game, joining Dominique Wilkins and Dirk Nowitzki.
#7 Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard, as mentioned earlier, dropped a 55-piece last night against the Denver Nuggets. He shot 17-24 (70.8%) from the field including 12-17 (70.6%) from three-point range while making 9-10 free throws. It was the most efficient performance in NBA playoff history and the second-highest scoring total in a loss.
Another one of his playoff marvels was in the 2019 NBA playoffs in the first round against the OKC Thunder. He went off for 50 points in the series-clinching Game 5 with one of the most iconic game-winning buzzer-beaters in NBA playoff history. He waved goodbye to the Thunder team as the arena erupted with joy.
Lillard shot 17-33 (51.5%) from the field in that game along with shooting 10-18 from beyond the arc and he made 6-8 free-throws. He also had seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. Both his 50-point games have had 10+ threes.
#8 Jayson Tatum
Just last week, Jayson Tatum went off for 50 points in Game 3 against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. He joined the elite list of Boston Celtics players who have scored 50+ points in the NBA playoffs. Tatum, practically by himself, kept the Nets' 'Big 3' at bay and took the series to 2-1.
Tatum shot 16-30 (53.3%) from the floor including 5-11 (45.5%) from beyond the arc while making 13-15 free throws. He also had six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block in that game.
Tatum became the only player in NBA history to score 50 points in the regular season play-in tournament and the NBA playoffs. He is also the third-youngest to do so in the NBA playoffs, joining Rick Barry and Michael Jordan.
Also Read: 10 biggest blowouts in NBA playoffs history