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As the cliche says, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s certainly true when it comes to NBA Playoff action. If you’re a neutral fan, it’s great to watch a dramatic game going back and forth until the final seconds. If you’re a bit more invested, though, it’s less stressful if the game is one-sided. Whether you’re celebrating a comfortable win or tuning out of an embarrassing victory, it’s a bit easier on your heart.

So, with that in mind, let’s crack open the record books and revisit some of the biggest blowouts in NBA postseason history. Whether you were on the right or wrong side of these, they were certainly memorable.

8. St. Louis Hawks 145, Detroit Pistons 101 (TIE)

Bob Pettit (L) is interviewed in 1958.
Bob Pettit was a key part of the St. Louis Hawks’ success. | Bob Ganley/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 1958 Western Division finals

After losing Game 3 of the series to Detroit by 20 points, the Hawks had revenge on their minds ahead of Game 4.

St. Louis raced out to a 40-20 lead after a quarter, and they never let up from there. An impressive seven players scored in double figures, and three had 20 or more, led by Cliff Hagan’s 28.

That wasn’t the end of the success, though. The Hawks won the next game by 24 to clinch the series and move on to the 1958 NBA Finals, and they subsequently topped the Celtics 4-2 to win the title.

8. Los Angeles Lakers 153, Denver Nuggets 109 (TIE)

  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 1985 Western Conference finals

The Lakers must have been itching to get back to the NBA Finals when they hit the floor for this game. Or, at least the second quarter.

What had been a fairly competitive series turned decisively in the Lakers’ favor when they outscored the Nuggets 42-19 in the second quarter of what turned out to be the fifth and final game of the series. James Worthy paced LA with 25 points, and three bench players, including Mike McGee with 21, hit double figures.

The Nuggets saw two players — Fat Lever and Wayne Cooper — break the 20-point plateau, but that wasn’t enough to keep things close.

8. Seattle Supersonics 122, Phoenix Suns 78 (TIE)

Gary Payton (L) and Shawn Kemp (R) during their time together in Seattle.
Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were the Seattle Supersonics’ main men. | Brian Bahr / Staff
  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 1997 first round

The 1996-97 Seattle Supersonics had plenty of offensive firepower, and that reality was on display during their first-round playoff series against Phoenix.

Seattle went off in Game 2 and recorded one of the biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history. They outscored the Suns 35-18 in the first quarter, and they cemented the lopsided win with a 38-15 advantage in the fourth. Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp each scored 23 for Seattle, and Hersey Hawkins added 19 points.

On Phoenix’s side of the ledger, things were shockingly ugly. Only one starter — Rex Chapman — finished with more than six points, although Cedric Ceballos, Wesley Person, and Danny Manning did reach double-digits from the bench. A young Jason Kidd had a particularly rough night, failing to hit a shot from the floor across nearly 34 minutes of action.

8. Cleveland Cavaliers 130, Boston Celtics 86 (TIE)

  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 2017 Eastern Conference finals

Home court advantage didn’t mean much in this series. The home team won just one game in this series (Cleveland in Game 4), and the Cavaliers stormed the Celtics for one of the most lopsided wins in NBA playoff history in Game 2.

Cleveland led 32-18 after a quarter, and it only got worse from there. The Cavs outscored the Celtics 40-13 in the second quarter, and the 72-31 halftime lead all but clinched the win for the Cavs. LeBron James scored a game-high 30 points and notched a ridiculous 46 plus/minus rating. Kyrie Irving scored 23, and Kevin Love added 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for Cleveland.

Things wouldn’t end happily for King James and company, though. After dispatching the Celtics in five games, the Cavs fell to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. That series also ended 4-1.

6. Los Angeles Lakers 135, San Antonio Spurs 88 (TIE)

  • Margin of victory: 47 points
  • Round: 1986 first round

We saw one Lakers blowout win from 1985, and they notched another one of the most lopsided victories in NBA playoff history less than a year later.

LA led 77-55 at halftime, but its 38-12 scoring advantage in the fourth turned the game into a blowout. Despite some of the legendary names on the roster, Byron Scott paced the Lakers with 24 points on 12-of-19 shooting; James Worthy went 7-of-7 from the field for 18 points, while Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson added 16 and 13, respectively.

6. Orlando Magic 124, Boston Celtics 77 (TIE)

Shaquille O'Neal backs down a defender during his time with the Orlando Magic.
Shaquille O’Neal was a force of nature during his days with the Orlando Magic. | John Mottern/AFP via Getty Images
  • Margin of victory: 47 points
  • Round: 1995 first round

While the Magic’s 1995 playoff run ultimately ended with a disappointing sweep at the hands of the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, it started with one of the biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history.

Orlando led 30-13 after a quarter, and it kept piling it on from there. Like most teams of the era, Boston had no answer for a young Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Aristotle led eight Orlando players in double figures with 23 points, but Horace Grant also did his fair share of the work, posting a 15-point, 14-rebound double-double.

In fairness to the Celtics, they bounced back to win Game 2, but that was the end of the comeback. Orlando took this series 3-1 and moved on.

5. Milwaukee Bucks 136, San Francisco Warriors 86

  • Margin of victory: 50 points
  • Round: 1971 Western Conference semifinals

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. The comfortable victory sealed the series, sending the Bucks to the NBA Finals with a 4-1 victory.

It is worth noting, though, that no other contest in the series had been decided by more than 14 points. Whether the Warriors had been worn down or the Bucks had simply found another gear, this was certainly an emphatic way to close things out.

4. Chicago Bulls 120, Milwaukee Bucks 66

Derrick Rose celebrates after scoring a basket.
Derrick Rose came to play during the 2015 NBA Playoffs. | Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • Margin of victory: 54 points
  • Round: 2015 Eastern Conference first round

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 margin of victory, 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, on the other hand, hit 51.1% of their shots from the floor and sunk an incredible 50% of their triples. To make things even more one-sided, Chicago had nine more rebounds, six fewer turnovers, and 14 more assists.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the victors, though. Their prize for dispatching the Bucks was a date with LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers; Chicago lost that second-round series four games to two.

3. Los Angeles Lakers 126, Golden State Warriors 70

  • Margin of victory: 56 points
  • Round: 1973 Western Conference finals

The Los Angeles Lakers took a 3-0 lead in the 1973 Western Conference finals after blowing out the Golden State Warriors 126-70. Rick Barry did all he could for the Warriors, but the fact that he led his team with 10 points tells you all that you need to know.

On the opposite side of the ledger, Jim McMillian paced the Lakers with 28 points. LA also got 17 points from Mel Counts and 16 from Jerry West.

And just think, the Warriors only had to play against a 36-year-old Wilt Chamberlain. If he was younger, things could have been even more one-sided.

1. Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75 (TIE)

  • Margin of victory: 58 points
  • Round: 1956 Western Division semifinals

The Minnesota Lakers set the bar for the 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 the contest, as the Western Division semifinals were a best-of-three series at the time. Minneapolis did just that, and they did so in emphatic fashion. Ten Lakers reached double-figures as they cruised to victory.

And while you would think this sort of victory might swing the momentum in the Minneapolis’ favor, it did no such thing. The St. Louis Hawks regrouped to win Game 3 and the series with a 116-115 victory.

1. Denver Nuggets 121, New Orleans Hornets 63 (TIE)

  • Margin of victory: 58 points
  • Round: 2009 Western Conference first round

Winning a game by 58 points is a pretty unique achievement, but it happened twice in NBA playoff history. The second came in 2009 when the Nuggets drubbed the New Orleans Hornets.

Despite being on the road, Carmelo Anthony torched the Hornets 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.

That doesn’t explain New Orleans’ lack of offense, though. The Hornets were ice cold, only shooting 31.5% from the field; for comparison’s sake, the Nuggets hit 56.6% of their shots.

To make matters worse — or better, depending on your perspective — this game only put New Orleans in a 3-1 hole in the series. As a result, the Hornets had to suffer through another ugly defeat — losing by 21 in Game 5 — before the season was over.


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