The Warriors’ Game 3 Loss to the Thunder Wasn’t Historically Unprecedented

The Warriors got blown out by 28 points. How unprecedented was that performance from a 1 seed?

No matter how the Western Conference Finals shake out from here, one thing is certain: the Oklahoma City Thunder are legit.

They stole Game 1 from the Golden State Warriors on the road before faltering in Game 2. But when the series headed to Oklahoma City for Game 3, they didn't mess around.

The Warriors started the game as 58% favorites, according to numberFire Live. By halftime, the Thunder owned a 94.5% chance to win. They didn't look back.


At the final buzzer, the Thunder were up 133-105, giving them a 28-point victory over the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Has a 1 seed ever been beaten so handedly?

Yes, They Have

According to Basketball-Reference, this margin of defeat is tied for 20th all-time among playoff losses for 1 seeds.

The biggest blowout? A 96-54 drubbing of the Utah Jazz by the Chicago Bulls in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals (42 points).

What about games only in the conference finals? Nope, it wasn't the worst loss by a 1 seed, but it was the seventh-biggest in NBA playoff history.

Date Loser Winner Final Score Margin
5/25/2001 San Antonio Spurs Los Angeles Lakers 111-72 39
5/30/1996 Seattle SuperSonics Utah Jazz 118-83 35
4/18/1973 Boston Celtics New York Knicks 129-96 33
5/26/2015 Atlanta Hawks Cleveland Cavaliers 118-88 30
5/22/2000 Los Angeles Lakers Portland Trail Blazers 106-77 29
5/27/2001 San Antonio Spurs Los Angeles Lakers 111-82 29
5/22/2016 Golden State Warriors Oklahoma City Thunder 133-105 28
6/2/1995 Orlando Magic Indiana Pacers 123-96 27

That's pretty embarrassing, but the extra special part is that the Warriors are no random 1 seed. We all know they've got the single-season record for wins (73).

Has a team this good ever lost this badly?

All-Time Greats

By many measures, the Warriors have been one of the best teams ever. Their average margin of victory this season (10.76) ranked sixth-best all-time.

What were the biggest losses for the 10 teams ever to post a margin of victory of 10 or greater?

Season Team W L MOV Biggest RS Loss Biggest Playoff Loss
1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers 69 13 12.28 16 26
1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks 66 16 12.26 30 11
1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72 10 12.24 32 21
1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks 63 19 11.16 16 25
1996-97 Chicago Bulls 69 13 10.8 17 11
2015-16 Golden State Warriors 73 9 10.76 32 28
2015-16 San Antonio Spurs 67 15 10.63 30 14
1991-92 Chicago Bulls 67 15 10.44 15 26
2007-08 Boston Celtics 66 16 10.26 18 24
2014-15 Golden State Warriors 67 15 10.1 15 13

Of note, the 1971-72 Lakers, who own the largest margin of victory in history, had some pretty sizable losses. Both of their biggest losses (regular season and playoffs) were road losses to the Milwaukee Bucks, who are fourth on this list. They also had two more 20-point losses in the playoffs: at home against the Bucks by 21 and home to the New York Knicks by 22 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals (which they Lakers ended up winning in five games).

The 1971-72 Bucks suffered a 25-point loss on the road to the Lakers, though, in Game 5 of the 1972 Western Conference Finals (which gave the Lakers a 3-2 lead -- they closed it out next game). Their two biggest regular season losses (16 and 13) came on the road against the Lakers.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, whose single-season wins record was just broken, lost by 21 in Game 4 of the 1996 NBA Finals to the Seattle SuperSonics. They got blown out by 32 by the Knicks in the regular season, though.

The point is that other great teams have lost games to good teams (and some not so good teams) by big margins. It happens. It's not the end of the world.

After all, the only teams in the table above that didn't win the NBA Finals were the 1971-72 Bucks (because the Lakers were even better that season), the 2015-16 Spurs, who lost to the Thunder, and the 2015-16 Warriors, because they're still playing.

Unfortunately for the Warriors, though, their odds to win the NBA Finals after Game 3 (30.2%) are pretty even with the Thunder's (30.6%) and the Cleveland Cavaliers' (29.3%).