The NBA Finals are supposed to be a battle between the two best teams in the league…well, at least a battle between the best team from each conference anyway (let’s not pretend that the two best teams are always on opposite sides of the NBA playoffs bracket). But things don’t always turn out that way.
As can happen in every NBA game, there are certain times where one of the teams competing for a title just doesn’t have it on a certain night. They can’t score a bucket or stop a bucket and things sometimes just get downright embarrassing.
Such was the case for the six teams on this list of the biggest blowouts in NBA Finals history.
5. The Boston Celtics have won two NBA Finals game by 34 points
In search of their third consecutive title, the Boston Celtics opened the 1961 NBA Finals with a 34-point win over the St. Louis Hawks. Seven players for the Celtics scored in double figures that night and Bill Russell pulled down 31 rebounds in the 129-95 victory. Three of the next four games were decided by single digits but Boston was clearly the better team and won the series in five games.
24 years later, the Celtics were on the right side of another 34-point Game 1 blowout in the NBA Finals, this time against the LA Lakers in what would come to be called the “Memorial Day Massacre.” Six Celtics scored in double figures that night, including all five starters, in the 148-114 drubbing but the Lakers would come back strong in Game 2 and went on to win the series in six games. The Lakers had previously been 0-8 in the NBA Finals against their bitter rivals.
4. The Bullets forced a Game 7 in 1978 with a 35-point victory over the Sonics
Down 3-2 in the series against the Seattle Supersonics, the Washington Bullets came into Game 6 of the 1978 NBA Finals needing a win to survive and they certainly scored a big one. Behind 21 points and 15 rebounds from Elvin Hayes, both game-highs, the Bullets cruised to a 35-point victory, 117-82.
The Sonics couldn’t buy a bucket at the Capital Centre that night, shooting just 33.7% from the field and 59.3% from the foul line. Washington clinched the only championship in franchise history three days later.
3. The Spurs beat the Heat by 36 in Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals
After watching the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs split the first two games of the 2013 NBA Finals, fans had no idea what to expect in Game 3. But it’s likely that nobody was expecting the third-biggest blowout in NBA Finals history. Miami’s “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all struggled shooting the basketball that night, and the Heat shot just 40.8% from the floor as a team.
The Spurs, on the other hand, shot 48.9% from the floor, including 50% from the 3-point line, on the way to a 113-77 win. Danny Green went 7-for-9 from beyond the arc and led the Spurs with 27 points. But Miami would have the last laugh as they fought back and won the series in seven games to clinch their second consecutive NBA title. San Antonio would win the rematch the following year.
2. The Celtics clinched their 17th title with a 39-point drubbing of the Lakers in 2008
With a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics needed to win just one of two games at home to clinch the franchise’s 17th NBA title. And they took care of business quickly with a 39-point beatdown of Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers.
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett each scored 26 points in the 131-92 victory while Rajon Rondo added 21. Paul Pierce chipped in with 17 points on his way to being named NBA Finals MVP and the Celtics shot 49.4% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Lakers shot just 42.2% from the floor in the loss.
1. The Bulls held the Jazz to 54 points in a 42-point win in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals
The 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz was one of the most competitive championship series in history, at least in five of the six games. Outside Game 3, which the Bulls won by a record 42 points, every game of the series went down to the wire and was decided by five points or less. But that Game 3 victory for the Bulls was crazy.
Chicago held Utah to an NBA Finals-low 54 points as the Jazz struggled to hit shots, shooting just 30% from the floor. The Jazz hit only one 3-pointer that night as Michael Jordan & Co. ran away with this game. The Bulls led by just three after the first quarter but turned it on in the second, outscoring Utah by 15 points to take an 18-point lead into halftime.
Refusing to take their foot off the gas, Chicago outscored Utah 23-14 in the third quarter and 24-9 in the fourth for the record 42-point win. The Bulls won the series in six to claim their sixth title in eight years.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference