The San Antonio Spurs became the sixth team in NBA finals history to win a game by more than 34 points, beating the Miami Heat in game 3 113-77, joining the Boston Celtics, Washington Bullets and the Chicago Bulls in the biggest of finals blowouts.
Each team that has won by that much in a finals series went on to win the NBA title. However, teams that have won by 33 points in some of the games – the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982 against the Lakers, the Lakers against the Celtics in 1984 and the Pacers against the Lakers in 2000, didn’t go on to win the series despite getting a huge momentum boost from a big win. Maybe these wide margins don’t mean that much after all.
34 Points – St. Louis Hawks vs Boston Celtics, 1961, Game 1
It was the fourth final in five years between the Boston Celtics and the St. Louis Hawks, resulting with the Celtics winning their third consecutive NBA title, en route to the all-time record of 8 championships in a row. In the series opener, Boston crushed St. Louis 129-95, the biggest win in a finals series at the time. Bill Russell finished with 31 rebounds (and 15 points), while Tom Heinsohn led the team with 26 points. Bob Pettit scored 17 points for the Hawks, who were led by Cliff Hagan with 33 points.
34 Points – Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics, 1985, Game 1
Just like in 1961, the Celtics opened their 1985 finals series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a huge 148-114 win that became known as the Memorial Day Massacre. Despite the embarrassing result for the Lakers, they went on to win the series in six games, denying the Celtics the pleasure of repeating at the expense of the Lakers. Boston needed only 7 three pointers in their devastating win, led by Kevin McHale and Scott Wedman (11-of-11 from the field), both scoring 26 points. Larry Bird had 19 points and 9 assists. For the Lakers, James Worthy led the way with 20 points, followed by Magic Johnson with 19 points and 12 assists.
35 Points – Seattle SuperSonics vs Washington Bullets, 1978, Game 6
This was the first of two consecutive finals series between the Bullets and the Sonics, with Washington coming out on top in 1978 after losing two finals series in the 70’s (Bucks & Warriors), while Seattle got their revenge in 1979. Washington were down 3-2 entering game 6, and Dick Motta made an interesting change by using Greg Ballard as a forward while moving Bob Dandridge to guard, a move that paid off in a 117-82 win that turned the tide. Dandridge scored 19 points for Washington, who were led by Elvin Hayes, scoring 21. Fred Brown led Seattle with 17 points. Washington won the 7th game in Seattle (before the 2-3-2 format) 105-99.
36 Points – Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs, 2013, Game 3
The San Antonio Spurs ravaged the Miami Heat, winning 113-77 despite losing the battle of the big threes. Danny Green led the way with 7 three pointers and 27 points, followed by Gary Neal scored 24 on six three pointers, as the Spurs set a new finals record of 16 three pointers. The win came after the Spurs were beaten by 19 points in game 2. For the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade led the way with 16 points while LeBron James and Mike Miller each added 15.
39 Points – Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics, 2008, Game 6
The Boston Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title and first in 22 years with a game 6 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, who arrived in Boston without any spirit left in them. It began in game 5, as a 19 point lead the Lakers jumped off to was erased, as the Celtics outscored the Lakers 38-17 to close out the half, eventually winning 103-98 after coming back from a 14 point deficit in the fourth quarter. The next game didn’t start out perfectly for Boston, but after a 34-15 second quarter, it was all over, winning 131-92. Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 14 rebounds, tying Ray Allen, also scoring 26, using 7 three pointers. Rajon Rondo put up a 21-8-7 stat line and Paul Pierce added 17 points and 10 assists. Kobe Bryant scored 22 for the Lakers on a 7-22 shooting night, waiting one more year before he got the ‘can’t win without Shaq’ label off his back.
42 Points – Utah Jazz vs Chicago Bulls, 1998, Game 3
The 1998 NBA finals are mostly known for Michael Jordan hitting the game winning, title-clinching shot in game 6, but also had a weird blowout in game 3, as the Bulls, heading to Chicago after splitting the first two games in Salt Lake City, won 96-54 in a game that set quite a few records, including the lowest scoring game for any NBA team, playoff or regular season, at the time, although that has since been “beaten.” Every player on the Bulls’ roster scored, including 24 from Michael Jordan and an impressive 8 point, 10 rebounds and 7 assist game from Ron Harper. Karl Malone scored 22 points for the Jazz, but he was the only players in double figures, as Utah turned the ball over 26 times, shot 1-of-9 from beyond the arc and shot 22% from the field excluding Malone’s night.