The Most Points Scored by a Team in NBA Playoff History
The nature of the high-stakes postseason is not exactly a recipe for high-scoring games or any kind of record for the most points scored by a team in NBA playoff history.
NBA teams get to scout their opponents thoroughly during the regular season and often have a strategy in place to counter their strengths. Additionally, the long drawn-out, seven-game series gives teams a chance to adapt tactics and defensive impact plays a major role in progressing through each round.
However, every now and then, there are a few games in which the offense starts firing on all cylinders and opponents can only think to themselves, “on to the next one.”
Here are the top five such games:
1. Boston Celtics 157, New York Knicks 128 (April 28, 1990)
The Celtics walked into their own arena that night confident with a 1-0 lead in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and unaware that they were about to make history.
The offensive play of the Celtics was a display of teamwork at its finest – with all 12 individuals contributing to the scoring column. The Knicks kept the battle close for the most part, but Kevin McHale’s dominance inside helped Boston gradually put the game out of reach.
McHale was as efficient as ever – converting 12 of his 15 shots and all seven of his free-throw attempts.
Apart from the big man’s 31-point contribution, Larry Bird, who had a rather poor night from the field (33%), made up for his misses by racking up a game-high 16 assists. All the Celtics’ starters scored in double-digits and the bench added 60 points as the team set a postseason record with 157 points.
The visiting Knicks put up 128 while falling behind 2-0 in the series, but they managed to win the next three games to stun the Celtics in five games. New York could advance no further, falling to the eventual champion Detroit Pistons in the East semis.
2: Milwaukee Bucks 156, Philadelphia 76ers 120 (March 30, 1970)
The stage was set for a decisive Game 3 in Philadelphia after the 76ers managed to snatch a 112-105 win on the road in Game 2.
However, the Bucks were determined and came out guns blazing, outscoring the 76ers 40-14 in the first quarter.
The 1-2 punch of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jon McGlocklin spelled disaster for the 76ers. Abdul-Jabbar connected on 13 of his 16 field goal attempts and went 7 for 8 from the foul line on the way to 33 points, 17 rebounds and three assists. McGlocklin added 24 points to the board on a 67% shooting clip.
The 76ers started making some progress in the second half, but their push was a bit too late to swing the tide in their favor. Philadelphia put up 48 points in the final quarter, but still ended up falling by 36 points in this one-sided NBA playoff game.
3: Los Angeles Clippers 154, Dallas Mavericks 111 (Aug. 25, 2020)
Playoffs in August? Yes, there were playoff games in August 2020 for the first time in NBA playoff history. And although this Western Conference first-round matchup was tied 2-2 heading in, disparity was the theme in Game 5 between the Mavericks and Clippers in the “bubble” in Orlando.
The Clippers pretty much set the tone for the game right away as Kawhi Leonard poured in 15 points on 70% shooting and Los Angeles led 41-22 after one quarter. The Clips continued scoring at least 35 points in each quarter and finished with their best night from the 3-point line in playoff history with 22 triples.
Both Paul George (35) and Kawhi Leonard (32) finished with 30+ points while shooting better than 60% from the field. Meanwhile, Luka Dončić led the Mavericks with 22 points but failed to find his rhythm in the most crucial game of the series.
The Clippers had visions of a great playoff showdown with LeBron James and the crosstown rival Lakers, but they couldn’t close out a 3-1 series lead on the Denver Nuggets and lost in seven in the conference semifinals. The Lakers, meanwhile, beat Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the Houston Rockets in the West semis, Denver in the conference finals and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for the franchise’s 15th title.
T-4: Los Angeles Lakers 153, Denver Nuggets 109 (May 22, 1985)
The Lakers meant business when they took on the Nuggets at home with a chance to put the series to bed early. While the Nuggets matched them blow for blow to start the game (34-34 at the end of one quarter), things quickly got out of hand before halftime.
The crafty Magic Johnson, who was the No. 1 pick of the Lakers in the NBA Draft just six years earlier, put up an impressive double-double with 17 points and 19 assists. James Worthy went 10 for 12 from the floor on the way to 25 points for the Showtime Lakers.
Byron Scott (21 points) and an older but still effective Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15) found buckets with ease as well, charting the path for the Lakers to secure a 44-point victory to advance to the 1985 NBA Finals.
These ’85 Lakers (more on them later) put up three of the highest playoff point totals in franchise history, including 142 in Game 1 and 147 in Game 2 in the first round against the Phoenix Suns.
T-4: Portland Trail Blazers 153, Phoenix Suns 151 (May 11, 1992)
Unlike the previous four games mentioned above which ended in regulation, the highest-scoring game in playoff history between the Trail Blazers and Suns needed two extra periods to decide the winner.
Clyde Drexler led Portland with 33 points, while Terry Porter and Danny Ainge also went for 31 and 25, respectively. Kevin Johnson’s 35 points and 14 assists were not enough for the Suns, who had swept the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Phoenix fell behind 3-1 in these Western Conference semifinals before getting knocked out in Game 5.
An end-to-end, up-tempo game is all a fan ever wants, and those in attendance (a little below 15,000) absolutely got their money’s worth. The Blazers would knock off the Utah Jazz in the conference finals, but lose to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
1. Boston Celtics 148, Los Angeles Lakers 114 (1985 Game 1)
You might also find this game on the list of the biggest blowouts in NBA Finals history.
It was the era of up-and-down basketball and the Showtime Lakers. And the Celtics beat the Lakers at their own game in the opener, rolling to 79 points in the first half and dropping another 40 in the fourth quarter.
Kevin McHale (26 points), Larry Bird (19), Danny Ainge (19), Robert Parish (18) and Scott Wedman (26) all scored at least 18 points.
The Lakers, however, would get the last laugh, winning four of the next five games to win the title.
- 2. Boston Celtics 142, Los Angeles Lakers 110 (1965 Game 1)
- 3. Philadelphia 76ers 141, San Francisco Warriors 135 (1967 Game 1)
- 4. Boston Celtics 140, St. Louis Hawks 122 (1960 Game 1)
- T-5. Cleveland Cavaliers 137, Golden State Warriors 116 (2017 Game 4)
- T-5. Los Angeles Lakers 137, Boston Celtics 104 (1984 Game 3)