NBA

The 11 Worst Blowouts in NBA Playoff History

Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith basking in the way they totally stomped the Raptors during the NBA Playoffs.
Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith basking in the way they stomped the Raptors during the NBA Playoffs. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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 the two teams 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.

Kevin Love gets the crowd into it.
Kevin Love basks in the glow of an epic beatdown of the Raptors. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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. (In the event of ties, we rank from oldest to most recent).

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

Bob Petit (left) was a key member of the 1958 St. Louis Hawks team that registered one of the biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history.
Bob Petit and the Hawks had a huge playoff win in 1958 on their way to a title. | Bob Ganley/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 1958 Western Division finals

After losing Game 3 of the series to Detroit by a pedestrian 20 points, the Hawks came out for Game 4 with revenge on their minds. St. Louis raced out to a 40-20 lead after a quarter, and they never let up from there. Seven players scored in double figures, and three had 20 or more, led by Cliff Hagan’s 28. The Hawks won the next game by 24 to move on to the finals, and they topped the Celtics 4-2 to win the title.

8. Los Angeles Lakers 153, Denver Nuggets109 (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 L.A. with 25 points, and three bench players, including Mike McGee with 21, hit double figures.

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

  • Margin of victory: 44 points
  • Round: 1997 first round

The 1996-97 Seattle Supersonics laid plenty of opponents to waste, and that included first-round playoff opponent Phoenix. Seattle went off in Game 2 of the series and recorded one of the biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history. The Supersonics 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.

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

LeBron James and the Cavaliers registered one of the biggest blowout wins in NBA playoff history.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers won big against the Celtics in the 2017 playoffs. | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • 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 Cleveland. 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 Clevelan.

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. L.A. led 77-55 at halftime, but its 38-12 scoring advantage in the fourth turned the game into a blowout. Byron Scott paced the Lakers with 24 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and James Worthy went 7-of-7 from the field for his 18 points.

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

  • Margin of victory: 47 points
  • Round: 1995 first round

Sure, the Magic’s 1995 playoff run ended with a sweep at the hands of the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, but it started with one of the biggest blowouts in NBA playoff history. Orlando led 30-13 after a quarter, and it kept piling on from there. Like most teams of the era, Boston had no answer for Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Aristotle led eight Orlando players in double figures with 23 points, but Horace Grant’s 15-point, 14-rebound double-double might have been the most impressive performance of the game.

5. Milwaukee Bucks 136, San Francisco Warriors 86

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar looking dapper.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Pretty Good At Basketball, most say. | Kris Connor/Getty Images
  • 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. 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. Chicago Bulls 120, Milwaukee Bucks 66

  • 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 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. Los Angeles Lakers 126, Golden State Warriors 70

Wilt Chamberlain brings up the rock.
Wilt Chamberlain was possibly the greatest singular force in NBA history. | Wen Roberts/Getty Images
  • 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 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. 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 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. Denver Nuggets 121, New Orleans Hornets 63 (TIE)

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

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.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference and ESPN.

Jason Rossi contributed to this article.