When the best of the best from both the Eastern and Western Conferences meet in the NBA Finals, it usually ends up in an all-out battle. The NBA championship is normally an intense match where each and every possession matters; from the jumpball all the way down to the final buzzer (and into overtime).
However, even the most competitive series can suffer from blowouts or games where the margin of victory is huge. Blowouts can happen for a variety of reasons: fatigue, injuries, energy-level, desperation, pressure, extreme humidity, or it can be as simple as one team hitting shots while the other team can’t find a rhythm. Whatever the reasons, here are the most-embarrassing NBA Finals games with the largest margins of victory since 1950:
|1||1998||3||Chicago Bulls 96||Utah Jazz 54||more|
|2||2008||6||Boston Celtics 131||Los Angeles Lakers 92||more|
|3||2013||3||San Antonio Spurs 113||Miami Heat 77||more|
|4||1978||6||Washington Bullets 117||Seattle Supersonics 82||more|
|5||1961||1||Boston Celtics 129||St. Louis Hawks 95||more|
|5||1985||1||Boston Celtics 148||Los Angeles Lakers 114||more|
|7||1965||5||Boston Celtics 129||Los Angeles Lakers 96||more|
|7||1982||5||Philadelphia 76ers 135||Los Angeles Lakers 102||more|
|7||1984||3||Los Angeles Lakers 137||Boston Celtics 104||more|
|7||1992||1||Chicago Bulls 122||Portland Trail Blazers 89||more|
|7||2000||5||Indiana Pacers 120||Los Angeles Lakers 87||more|
|7||2016||2||Golden State Warriors 110||Cleveland Cavs 77||more|
|13||1965||1||Boston Celtics 142||Los Angeles Lakers 110||more|
|13||1977||4||Portland Trailblazers 130||Philadelphia 76ers 98||more|
|15||1967||2||Philadelphia 76ers 126||San Francisco Warriors 95||more|
|15||2005||4||Detroit Pistons 102||San Antonio Spurs 71||more|
|17||2016||3||Cleveland Cavs 120||Golden State Warriors 90||more|
|18||1981||5||Boston Celtics 109||Houston Rockets 80||more|
|19||1951||1||Rochester Royals 92||New York Knicks 65||more|
|20||1960||5||Boston Celtics 127||St. Louis Hawks 102||more|
|20||1985||3||Los Angeles Lakers 136||Boston Celtics 111||more|
|20||1988||4||Detroit Pistons 111||Los Angeles Lakers 86||more|
|20||2009||1||Los Angeles Lakers 100||Orlando Magic 75||more|
The Biggest Finals Blowout: Game 3 of 1998 Finals
The largest margin of victory in an NBA Finals contest belongs to Michael Jordan‘s Chicago Bulls when they completely annihilated the Karl Malone–John Stockton Utah Jazz in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals. In the historic 96-54 laugher, the extra-long and athletic Jordan,Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc and gang turned it up defensively and the Jazz never expected that level of intensity.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team play any better defensively since I’ve been in the business,” Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. “And they ate us alive. We couldn’t get into our offense, couldn’t get up the floor. They came out and got after us. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team that quick defensively.”
That stinker of a game is the all-time worst in terms of margin of victory, but it also set a variety of infamous NBA Finals records including fewest points in an NBA Finals game.
Not Even Mt. Rushmore is Immune (But Home Teams Are)
Even the Gods of Basketball are prone to being on the wrong side of a blowout. For being the faces of the NBA in the Golden Era of the 1980s, Magic’s Lakers and Larry Bird‘s Celtics were not underrepresented in NBA Finals blowouts. Of the 22 games in the list, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were involved in six of those games. Not sure what that means, but there it is.
And for those of you that think there’s no such thing as home court advantage should take a look at the above 23 NBA Finals massacres. In each and every mauling, it’s the home team that came out on top.
But with games that ended before they started, most of the time that’s the exception. Even when a series is lopsided, a 25 point (or more) margin is extremely rare. A few examples when finals were competitive even though one team failed to win a game:
1989: Led by Isiah Thomas, the Detroit Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-97 in the 1989 NBA Finals. The Pistons would sweep the Lakers 4-0 after being defeated by the Magic Johnson Showtime Lakers the previous year.
2007: In the 2007 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs would leave San Antonio with two wins after pulling out a 103-92 win over LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavs.
Most NBA Finals are competitive series where even a 20 point margin isn’t a very common occurrence, but when the wheels fall off, it ain’t pretty.