The 5 Worst Blowouts in NBA Playoff History
In the Eastern Conference finals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs, the Toronto Raptors surprised everyone when they stole not one, but two games against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that should never drop a pair of contests to a squad like Toronto.
The difference between them is roughly the difference between a Nerf hoop and an NBA hoop, and before you point to the regular-season record — the Raptors were the second seed and finished one game behind Cleveland — we’ll direct you to the fact that the Raptors play in the Atlantic, which is easily the least-competitive division in the league (save Boston).
All said, the Cavaliers looked good in the third and fourth games, but they entered Game 5 looking like the sort of team that hadn’t lost a playoff game until they wound up in Canada — and ultimately won 116-78. Yes, you read that score correctly. Talk about a monumental beatdown.
It was not a close game at the end. It was nearly never a close game while it happened. When color commentator Jeff Van Gundy returned from a break with, “If you’re just tuning in, tune out!” he was only half joking, as the Eastern Conference finals shifted back into Cleveland’s favor with all the excitement of watching someone else watch paint dry. It was, as they say, a blowout.
This isn’t the first lopsided affair to take place in the playoffs. But what are some of the other greatest stomps? Let’s find out. Here are the five biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history.
5. 1971 Western Conference semifinals: Milwaukee Bucks 136, San Francisco Warriors 86
Margin of victory: 50 points
The San Francisco Warriors found themselves in a hole to start Game 5 of the 1971 Western Conference semifinals, and things only got worse. They trailed the Milwaukee Bucks by 20 points at the end of the first quarter, and by halftime they were down 69-35.
The Warriors had no answer for the duo of John McGlocklin and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), who scored 28 points and 23 points, respectively. This was the last game of the series, as the Bucks closed it out 4-1. Prior to this game, no other contest in the series had been decided by more than 14 points. Clearly that wasn’t enough for the Bucks.
4. 2015 Eastern Conference first round: Chicago Bulls 120, Milwaukee Bucks 66
Margin of victory: 54 points
If the Chicago Bulls hoped to make a statement when they finished off the Milwaukee Bucks, then they certainly succeeded. Aside from the 54-point beating they put on the Bucks, the Bulls dominated in every facet of this game. Milwaukee shot just 32.9% from the field and 21.1% from three-point range. The Bulls managed to hit 51.1% of their shots and knock down 50% of their triples.
The Bulls had nine more rebounds, six less turnovers, and 14 more assists. Milwaukee overachieved on the season, but the team’s inexperience exposed itself in Game 5. The Bulls, of course, later fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
3. 1973 Western Conference finals: Los Angeles Lakers 126, Golden State Warriors 70
Margin of victory: 56 points
The Los Angeles Lakers took a 3-0 lead in the 1973 Western Conference finals after blowing out the Golden State Warriors by a score of 126-70. Rick Barry did all he could for the Warriors, but he and his team-high 10 points were no match for the dominant road team. For the Lakers, Jim McMillian led the way with 28 points. The team also got 17 points from Mel Counts and 16 from Jerry West.
Los Angeles benefited from extra trips to the free-throw line in this contest; the Lakers had 31 attempts to the Warriors’ 17. In all honesty, this game was never really close, with Los Angeles outscoring Golden State in every quarter. At least the Warriors only had to play against a 36-year-old Wilt Chamberlain. If he was younger, the outcome would’ve been a whole lot worse.
1. (tie) 1956 Western Division semifinals: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
Margin of victory: 58 points
The Minnesota Lakers set the bar for most lopsided affair in NBA Playoffs history when they annihilated the St. Louis Hawks by 58 points. It was March 19, 1956, and the Lakers found themselves down 1-0 entering Game 2.
They needed to win this contest or they’d be eliminated from the playoffs in the Western Division semifinals. Minneapolis did just that — in emphatic fashion, we might add. While you would think this sort of victory might swing the momentum in the Lakers’ favor, it did no such thing. The St. Louis Hawks regrouped to win Game 3 and the series with a 116-115 victory.
1. (tie) 2009 Western Conference first round: Denver Nuggets 121, New Orleans Hornets 63
Margin of victory: 58 points
The Denver Nuggets achieved this same margin of victory — courtesy of a 121-63 win — against the New Orleans Hornets in Game 4 of the 2009 Western Conference’s first round. Despite being on the road, Carmelo Anthony lit up the home team for 26 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. Chauncey Billups provided some help with 17 points, and J.R. Smith came off the bench to add 12 points to the mix.
The Hornets only shot 31.5% from he field, which was not good enough to top a Nuggets team that hit 56.6% of their shots. Unfortunately, this game only put New Orleans in a 3-1 hole in the series. As a result, the team had to endure one more massive playoff defeat — losing by 21 in Game 5 — before the season was over.