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Longtime NBA postseason records that could be broken in the 2020s

(Getty Images / Matthew Stockman)

For 35 years, Michael Jordan’s record for the most points in a single playoff game has reigned supreme. More than three decades after the fact, however, it seems like his 63-point performance will be making way for a new king in the near future.

Modern-day NBA stars are dropping 50-plus points on what seems like a nightly basis, and that consistency is carrying over from the regular season into the playoffs.

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Since the start of the 2017 NBA Playoffs and as of this writing on June 4, 2021, the league has seen 11 players drop 50 or more points in a playoff game. Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell put up 57 and 51 points in the span of a week in 2020, and Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray dropped 50 points twice over four days.

The debate raged on in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, as Damian Lillard set the postseason record for 3-pointers in a game when he scored 55 points in a double-OT battle against the Nuggets.

Lillard’s performance sparked a conversation about when, not if, Jordan’s record would fall, and who would be the one to do it. At the same time, it got us thinking about what other playoff records could fall in the near future.

Records related to assists are going to be tough to break. Magic Johnson and John Stockton each put up 24 assists in a game in the 1980s, and three players have put up 15 assists in a half in NBA postseason history.

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Same goes for rebounds, considering Wilt Chamberlain grabbed 41 boards in a game in 1967, and managed to pull down 26 in a single half 11 days later.

But, there’s still plenty of room in the postseason history books for the NBA’s modern-day players, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some longtime records fall in the 2020s.

  • Most points in a playoff game

Michael Jordan’s 63-point performance in 1986 was certainly impressive, considering he topped a 61-point game from Elgin Baylor that had previously stood at the top for 24 years.

With players frequently dueling with 50-point games in the 2020s and stars like Damian Lillard willing their team into overtime games, it seems like this one will fall to second place before you know it.

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  • Most points in a quarter

Similarly, where scoring volume is at an all-time high, Sleepy Floyd’s 29-point quarter for the Golden State Warriors in 1987 could take a hit in the 2020s, as well.

We’ve seen current Warriors star Klay Thompson drop 37 points in a regular-season quarter, and his Splash Brother Stephen Curry put up 25 points, as well. All it takes is a few made threes to get a player’s confidence up, and to send them down the right path towards a solid quarter.

Especially in fourth quarters, where superstars trade big bucket after big bucket, this one should fall in the 2020s.

  • Most field goals in a quarter and in a half

This one is a twofer, because the former could easily help a player in their efforts to achieve the latter.

Currently, Sleepy Floyd’s 12 field goals in a quarter and Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing’s 16 field goals in a half each stand as records in postseason history. Floyd’s has stood since 1987, while Bing’s took place all the way back in 1968.

A player with some size and the ability to hit from deep, like Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, could easily grab rebounds for some easy buckets down low and then drain some deep balls to make history.

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  • Most 3-pointers made in a quarter

Boston Celtics legend Antoine Walker’s six 3-pointers in a quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2002 reign supreme at the moment.

But, that record is already on wobbly legs, considering the fact that Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. and Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker each tied the record on the same night during the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Factoring in the threat that players like Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and more present at the moment, this one seems like one of the easier ones to take down in the 2020s.

  • Total points in a seven-game series

This one is a bit more niche than others as it pertains to an entire series, but Elgin Baylor’s 284 points in a seven-game series may fall victim to the NBA’s latest high-scoring era.

Baylor averaged 40.6 points per game against the Boston Celtics in that series in 1962. In their first-round series in the bubble in 2020, Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray rattled off 50-point games like it was nothing.

As the league continues to adapt with so many young stars, and with so much parity in a loaded Western Conference as of 2021, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a superstar like Damian Lillard beat that average and take down this record.

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  • Points in an entire playoff run

Michael Jordan’s run in the 1992 NBA Playoffs was insane, as “His Airness” scored a total of 759 points en route to the Chicago Bulls’ second title in franchise history.

LeBron James made a run at Jordan’s record in 2018, coming up just 11 points short in his final season as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. A year later, Kawhi Leonard put up 732 points of his own throughout the Toronto Raptors’ run to the 2019 NBA Finals.

Don’t be surprised to see someone on a championship team take this record out over the next few years, especially if they find themselves playing in multiple seven-game series throughout their run.

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