Top 5 clutch playoff performances

These five guys were impervious to pressure; who else could join this list?

Updated: May 5, 2012, 11:39 AM ET
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com
Ray AllenMark L. Baer/US PresswireIn Game 6 of the 2008 Finals, Allen poured in 26 for the No. 5 clutch playoff performance.

There have been plenty of great playoff performances over the past 26 seasons, and ranking them is largely an academic exercise (flashing ring No. 5, does Kobe Bryant really care where his infamous 6-for-24 Game 7 places statistically?). Still, it's the kind of debate that sports fans live for, and it makes for a fun project as we start these 2012 playoffs.

With that in mind, I put together a list of the five greatest clutch playoff (and "un-clutch") performances since 1986. On paper, the premise is simple: Calculate a performance metric for every playoff game by a player over that span, see who raised or lowered his game the most versus his regular-season form, then weigh said changes by the importance of each game (see chart to right).

Some clutch performances that missed the cut: Isiah Thomas' play (43 points, eight assists) in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals was great, and the game itself was worth 4.33 times as much as an average playoff game. Robert Horry's 15 points were clutch in Game 7 of the 2005 Finals (9.01 leverage), Rashard Lewis unexpectedly had 34 points and 11 boards in Game 2 of the '09 Finals (3.49 leverage), Vernon Maxwell helped Houston win it all with 21 points in Game 7 of the '94 Finals (7.43 leverage) and Tim Duncan put up a terrific 32-point, 20-rebound stat line in Game 1 of the '03 Finals (3.41 leverage).

None of those, however, were good enough to crack the top 5.

Here are the games that were:

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.