5. Karl Malone, Jazz: 1998 Finals, Game 5
Game Score: 40.8 Result: Jazz 83, Bulls 81 Series: Bulls win in 6
In the 33 Finals since the merger, this was the single best performance by a player whose team didn't win the series. Facing elimination, on the road, against one of the greatest teams of all time, Malone provided one glaring counterpoint to his less-than-scintillating playoff résumé by single-handedly dominating the Bulls.
Single-covered by all-world defender Dennis Rodman for much of the night, Malone converted an endless procession of mid-range turnaround jumpers from the left side (one of the most difficult shots in the game). Malone finished with 39 points on 17-of-27 shooting, added nine rebounds and five assists and had just one turnover.
Malone produced the second-highest Game Score in Finals history, as only Tim Duncan's 2003 annihilation of New Jersey in Game 1 ranks higher. However, we can't put Malone's performance any higher because it wasn't ultimately meaningful, as the Jazz lost Game 6 and the series. (Although Malone had a crucial turnover at the end, I should point out he played nearly as well in that contest, with 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.)