Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NBA Finals: 15-Point Win After a 15-Point Loss

UPDATE: After obviously reading this and posting it in the locker room, the Miami Heat took Game Four 109-93 to even the series at 2-2. The 16-point win is an answer the Spurs 36-point win of an answer to the Heat's 19-point win in Game Two. So I guess you can add this series to the list once again. It's the first time in NBA Finals history that the two teams have had alternating 15-point margins in three consecutive games. The chart below has been updated.

Two nights after the Miami Heat rolled to a 103-84 victory to even up the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs bludgeoned the Heat 113-77 to take a 2-1 series lead. It was a historic rout as the Spurs drained 16 three-pointers to set a Finals record in the championship round's third-biggest blowout ever (+36)*.

* The widest margin of victory was in Game Three of the 1998 Finals, when the Bulls beat the Jazz 96-54 (+42). Utah's point total was the lowest by any team in any game since the inception of the shot clock in 1954-55. That mark has been topped (bottomed?) twice in the regular season by the 1999 Bulls (49) and 2002 Nuggets (53). The second-biggest margin was in Game Six of the 2008 Finals, with the Celtics clinching the title with a 131-92 win over the Lakers (+39).

It also marked the seventh time in NBA Finals history that a team answered a 15+ point defeat with a 15+ point victory in the next game. As it did in four of the first six cases, the dueling drubbings occurred in Games Two and Three of the series.

Game Date ▴ Tm Opp Result PTS
2 1964-04-20 BOS SFW W 124-101 +23
3 1964-04-22 SFW BOS W 115-91 +24
2 1977-05-26 PHI POR W 107-89 +18
3 1977-05-29 POR PHI W 129-107 +22
2 1982-05-30 PHI LAL W 110-94 +16
3 1982-06-01 LAL PHI W 129-108 +21
5 1986-06-05 HOU BOS W 111-96 +15
6 1986-06-08 BOS HOU W 114-97 +17
3 1996-06-09 CHI @ SEA W 108-86 +22
4 1996-06-12 SEA CHI W 107-86 +21
2 2005-06-12 SAS DET W 97-76 +21
3 2005-06-14 DET SAS W 96-79 +17
2 2013-06-09 MIA SAS W 103-84 +19
3 2013-06-11 SAS MIA W 113-77 +36
4 2013-06-13 MIA @ SAS W 109-93 +16
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/14/2013.

1964, 1996 and 2013 are the only years in which both victories were by 19 points or more.

Let's take a closer look at each of the first six series on the list.


The Celtics beat Wilt Chamberlain's San Francisco Warriors in Game One before rolling by 23 to take a commanding 2-0 lead to the West Coast. Wilt scored 35 in leading the Warriors to a Game Three win, but it would be their only victory of the series as Boston won its sixth straight title in five games.


The Portland Trail Blazers found themselves in an 0-2 hole after an 18-point loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia. Back home in Rip City, Maurice Lucas scored 27 points and Bill Walton added 20 to ignite a Blazers comeback. They'd win the next three games to claim the crown. Portland is one of three teams to win the Finals after trailing two games to none*.

* The others are the 1969 Celtics and the 2006 Heat. Like the Blazers, Miami won four straight after dropping the first two games.


This is the series that 2013's has mirrored the most. The '82 Lakers, like the Spurs, pulled out a road win before getting roughed up in Game Two. Returning home, the Lakers won by 21 thanks to Norm Nixon's 29 points and Magic Johnson's near triple-double (22-9-8). L.A. won the next game as well and although they couldn't wrap up the series in Philly, they came back to The Forum and won Game Six to clinch.


The Celtics were supposed to have another showdown with the Lakers, but L.A. was upset by the Houston Rockets in the Western Finals. Boston won three of the first four games, but Hakeem Olajuwon kept the C's from clinching with 32 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks. Three nights later in Boston, Larry Bird put up 29 points, 11 boards and 12 assists for a Game Six win and a third championship.


With the return of Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls posted the best record in NBA history (72-10). They went 11-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but waiting for them in the Finals were the Seattle SuperSonics. In the first-ever Finals matchup of 64+-win teams, Chicago raced out to a 3-0 series lead. The 22-point win in Seattle made a sweep look like a fait accompli. The Sonics showed some fight, however, delaying the Bulls' coronation with a 21-point win in Game Four and an 11-point victory to send the series back to Chicago. The Bulls finally put the Sonics away with an 87-75 win to take their place as the NBA's greatest.


The defending-champion Pistons and perennial-contender Spurs met for the '05 title and while the series went seven games, it lacked drama for the first four games. Detroit won the first two games by 15 and 21 points and when the series shifted to San Antonio, the Spurs won the next two by 17 and 31. Robert Horry's three-pointer with 5.8 seconds left in overtime gave the Spurs a 96-95 win in Game Five. Needing to win two games on the road, Detroit took Game Six and was tied with the Spurs going into the fourth quarter of Game Seven, but San Antonio pulled away late to win the title.

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