The thrill of a close basketball game, where every possession counts, and the outcome is uncertain until the final buzzer, is undeniable. However, there’s a different kind of allure to those games where one team dominates so thoroughly that the result is never in doubt.
These are the games that make history, not for their suspense, but for their sheer disparity. Let’s get into some of the most one-sided games in NBA history, understanding the context, the players, and the stories behind these unforgettable blowouts.
The concept of a blowout in the NBA, especially one of historic proportions, seems almost surreal. These are athletes at the pinnacle of their profession, trained and paid to compete at the highest level. Yet, even in this elite arena, there are days when one team so completely outclasses the other that the scoreboard tells a tale of utter domination.
Contrary to what one might assume, the most significant NBA blowouts haven’t been relics from the league’s early days. In fact, with all the advancements in sports science, nutrition, and technology aimed at leveling the playing field, some of the most lopsided games have occurred recently.
It’s a testament to the unpredictable nature of sports, where despite all preparations, things can go awry, leading to outcomes that leave fans and analysts alike in disbelief.
The Role of Momentum
Basketball, perhaps more than any other sport, is a game of runs. Momentum can shift rapidly, and when one team finds its rhythm while the other struggles, the stage is set for a blowout. The longer a team can sustain its dominance, and the other its slump, the wider the margin becomes. This dynamic has been evident in many of the games we’ll explore.
Grizzlies vs Thunder – December 2, 2021
One doesn’t need to look far back to find the most one-sided NBA game ever. The Memphis Grizzlies’ demolition of the Oklahoma City Thunder in December 2021 stands out not just for the 73-point margin but for the circumstances surrounding it.
Absence of Ja Morant
What makes this blowout even more astonishing is the absence of the Grizzlies’ star player, Ja Morant. Despite missing their key scorer due to a knee problem, Memphis showcased a team performance for the ages. Their shooting was impeccable, with a franchise-record field goal percentage of 62.5%. When a team is this hot, a blowout is often on the horizon.
The Thunder’s Forgettable Year
2021 wasn’t kind to the Oklahoma City Thunder, at least in terms of blowouts. Apart from their debacle against the Grizzlies, they also suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers.
The 152-95 scoreline in favor of the Pacers was historic for another reason – it was the largest margin of defeat for a home team in NBA history. The Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis was particularly dominant, achieving a triple-double by halftime. While the Thunder did manage a late rally, it was too little, too late.
Cavaliers vs Heat – December 18, 1991
Shifting our focus back a few decades, the 1990s had its share of blowouts, with one in particular standing out. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ clash with the Miami Heat in 1991 was a masterclass in dominance.
A Different Era of Basketball
The 90s were a different time for basketball, with teams employing varied strategies and styles. However, blowouts were arguably more common then. The Cavaliers’ 148-80 victory over the Heat was characterized by balanced scoring. While eight Cavs players scored in double digits, none surpassed 20 points. It was a collective effort that saw them outscore the Heat 75-27 in the second half alone.
For the Miami Heat, this game was nothing short of a nightmare. Glen Rice’s post-game comment summed it up best: “I don’t know what we played, but it wasn’t basketball.” Interestingly, just a week prior, the Heat had narrowly defeated the Cavaliers. Such are the vagaries of sports.
Lakers vs Warriors – March 19, 1972
Delving further into the annals of NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers’ rout of the Golden State Warriors in 1972 is noteworthy. This game saw the Lakers triumph 162-99, a testament to their dominance that season.
A Star-Studded Lakers Team
The 1971-72 Lakers were a force to be reckoned with. Led by the scoring prowess of Gail Goodrich, who dropped 30 points in this game, the team also boasted legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Their chemistry and skill were evident as they dismantled the Warriors, setting the stage for their eventual NBA Finals victory that year.
The Warriors’ Lone Bright Spot
In a game characterized by the Lakers’ dominance, the Warriors had one quarter to cheer for. They outscored the Lakers 32-29 in the second quarter. However, their performance in the other three quarters left much to be desired, highlighting the gulf in class between the two teams on that particular day.
Lakers vs Hawks – 1956 Playoffs
The NBA’s history is rich and varied, and as we journey back to the mid-1950s, we encounter a playoff game that set records for its lopsided nature. The Minneapolis Lakers faced off against the St. Louis Hawks in a game that would go down in the annals of NBA blowout history.
A Different Time, A Different Game
The NBA of the 1950s was vastly different from today’s high-flying, three-point shooting spectacle. Teams had smaller rosters, and the game’s pace and style were distinct. In this particular matchup, the Lakers steamrolled the Hawks with a 133-75 victory, a staggering 58-point margin.
The Hawks’ Resilience
Despite the crushing defeat, the Hawks showcased their resilience. Every player on the Lakers’ roster scored in double figures, while the Hawks struggled, shooting a mere 24%. Yet, in a testament to the unpredictable nature of sports, the Hawks rebounded from this loss to defeat the Lakers in the Divisional Semifinals that year.
Nuggets vs Hornets – 2009 Playoffs
Fast-forwarding to the 21st century, the 2009 NBA Playoffs witnessed another game of sheer dominance. The Denver Nuggets, in a masterful display of basketball, decimated the New Orleans Hornets.
A Shooting Clinic
Basketball games often hinge on shooting efficiency, and this game was no exception. The Nuggets were on fire, shooting 57% from the field and an impressive 50% from beyond the arc. Contrast this with the Hornets, who managed only 31% field goal shooting and a dismal 13% from three-point territory.
Carmelo Anthony, in his prime, was a sight to behold. Leading the Nuggets in scoring, he put up 26 points, showcasing his scoring prowess and versatility. With seven players finishing in double figures, the Nuggets’ balanced attack was too much for the Hornets to handle, resulting in a 121-63 blowout.
The Psychology Behind Blowouts
While stats and scores tell one side of the story, there’s a psychological aspect to blowouts that’s worth exploring. What goes through a player’s mind during such games? How do teams bounce back from such demoralizing defeats?
The Winning Team’s Perspective
For the team on the winning side, a blowout can be a confidence booster. It’s a testament to their preparation, execution, and dominance. However, it’s essential to stay grounded, as overconfidence can lead to complacency in subsequent games.
The Losing Team’s Mindset
For the team on the receiving end, a blowout can be a tough pill to swallow. It challenges their self-belief and can sow seeds of doubt. However, sports history is replete with examples of teams using such defeats as motivation, channeling their disappointment into determination and coming back stronger.
The Role of Coaching in Blowouts
Behind every great team is a great coach. The role of coaching in lopsided games cannot be understated. While players execute on the court, it’s the strategies and decisions made on the sidelines that often dictate the flow of the game.
A blowout often signifies a tactical masterclass from one team’s coaching staff. It’s about exploiting the opponent’s weaknesses, making real-time adjustments, and ensuring that the team stays focused, even with a significant lead. Coaches like Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, and Pat Riley have showcased this ability time and again, leading their teams to dominant victories.
Motivating a Demoralized Team
On the flip side, how a coach handles a blowout loss is crucial. It’s about lifting the team’s spirits, analyzing what went wrong, and preparing for the next challenge. Great coaches understand that one game doesn’t define a season and use such setbacks as learning experiences.
The Fans’ Perspective on Blowouts
For fans, basketball is more than just a game; it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Witnessing a blowout, whether on the winning or losing side, evokes strong emotions.
The Joy of Dominance
For fans of the winning team, a blowout is a celebration. It’s about bragging rights, cherishing the team’s superiority, and basking in the glory of a dominant performance. Such games become memorable moments, discussed and relived for years to come.
The Pain of Defeat
Conversely, for fans of the losing side, a blowout can be heart-wrenching. It’s a mix of disbelief, disappointment, and hope for a better performance next time. True fans, however, stick by their team through thick and thin, understanding that setbacks are part of the journey.
Memorable Moments in Blowout Games
While the scoreline in a blowout game might suggest a lack of competition, these games often have memorable moments that stand out.
Blowouts can be the backdrop for individual brilliance. Whether it’s a player scoring a career-high, achieving a rare triple-double, or breaking long-standing records, such games often witness extraordinary individual feats.
Sportsmanship on Display
In lopsided games, sportsmanship becomes paramount. It’s about playing with respect, not running up the score, and acknowledging the opponent’s efforts. Moments where players from opposing teams console each other, or when a coach pulls out his star players to avoid unnecessary humiliation, showcase the true spirit of the game.
What was the most one-sided NBA game?
The most one-sided NBA game occurred on December 2, 2021, when the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder with a score of 152-79, resulting in a 73-point margin of victory.
What’s the worst loss in NBA history?
The worst loss in NBA history is the aforementioned game where the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Memphis Grizzlies by a margin of 73 points on December 2, 2021.
Who has the best NBA single game?
This is subjective and can vary based on criteria. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962 is often cited as one of the best individual performances. However, there have been numerous outstanding single-game performances by players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James, among others.
What is the highest-scoring NBA game by one team?
The highest-scoring NBA game by one team occurred on December 13, 1983, when the Detroit Pistons scored 186 points against the Denver Nuggets. However, it’s worth noting that this game went into triple overtime.
Is 20 points a blowout?
In the NBA, a 20-point margin of victory is considered significant and can be viewed as a blowout, especially if the lead was maintained consistently throughout the game. However, the term “blowout” is subjective and can vary based on the context of the game and the teams playing.
Blowouts, while not the most competitive spectacles, offer a unique lens into the world of professional basketball. They highlight the importance of preparation, resilience, and the ever-present unpredictability of sports. As fans, while we cherish close contests, it’s essential to understand and appreciate the stories and lessons even in the most one-sided games.