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Who holds the record for most turnovers in a single playoff game? How many?

In basketball, a turnover occurs when a team loses possession of the ball, usually due to poor strategy, ineffective teamwork, or by fouls team-committed.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13)
Dan HamiltonUSA Today Sports

In basketball, a turnover is a critical mistake that can cost a team the game. While turnovers can occur for various reasons, many are preventable and fall under “unforced errors.”

These can include everything from a player throwing a poor pass due to over-aggressiveness to accidentally stepping out of bounds or failing to catch the ball properly. Other examples of unforced turnovers include moving screens, double dribbling, making offensive fouls, and traveling with the ball. These errors can be frustrating for players and coaches.


They represent missed opportunities and lost possessions that could have been used to gain a strategic advantage over the opposing team.

Who holds the record?

Houston Rockets guard at the time, James Harden, famously struggled in a pivotal Game 5 loss to the Golden State Warriors during the 2015 NBA Playoffs. According to a report by Sports Illustrated, Harden set an NBA single-game playoff record with 13 turnovers, contributing to the Rockets’ 104-90 defeat and elimination from the playoffs.

With Houston trailing 3-1 in the series and hoping to keep their championship aspirations alive, Harden’s performance left much to be desired. He made just two of his 11 field-goal attempts, finishing the game with 14 points - his lowest postseason total. Despite tallying six rebounds, five assists, and three steals, his numerous turnovers proved too much to overcome.

The game’s outcome stunned fans and analysts alike, as Harden’s poor showing was unexpected, given his strong performances earlier in the playoffs. Ultimately, his historic number of turnovers proved to be a significant factor in the Rockets’ defeat, ending their season on a sour note.

According to data from’s play index, no player had ever committed more than 10 turnovers in a playoff game since at least the 1985-86 season. However, Harden’s struggles against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 resulted in a staggering 13 turnovers, breaking the previous record by a wide margin.

Interestingly, Harden had committed 10 turnovers during a playoff game in 2013, when his Rockets managed to defeat his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. He joined a short list of players, including LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Penny Hardaway, and Kevin Johnson, who had previously committed 10 turnovers in a single playoff game.

Duncan stands out as the only player in NBA history to commit 10 turnovers in a playoff victory, achieving the feat during a 2002 matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. While turnovers can be a challenging statistic to analyze, Harden’s record-breaking performance in Game 5 will surely go down in basketball history as one of the most impressive yet disappointing performances in recent memory.