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Each NBA team’s worst loss in a regular season game

Jarrett Hoffman
Los Angeles Clippers, worst loss franchise history
February 28, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) reacts after dunking for a basket against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday afternoon saw the Los Angeles Clippers lose by 51 points to the Dallas Mavericks. It is not unusual for a team to lose by such a wide margin but it is fairly rare.

Most may assume that a team that takes such a terrible loss means they were among the worst teams in the league. However, there have been times where teams suffered their worst loss in franchise history and went on to make the playoffs. Here we will break down each NBA team’s worst loss in a regular season game in franchise history.

Atlanta Hawks: 49 points, 2019

Clippers-Hawks, 2019-20 NBA season
Jan 22, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; LA Clippers guard Rodney McGruder (19) attempts a shot against Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins (20) in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks worst loss as a franchise came in the 1956 NBA Playoffs as the St. Louis Hawks, losing by 58 to the Minneapolis Lakers. However, their worst regular season loss came last season when they lost 150-101 to the Los Angeles Clippers. At halftime, the Clippers led by just 12 point but went on to outscore the Hawks in the second half by 37.

Boston Celtics: 52 points, 2003

It was on January 31, 2003 that the Boston Celtics lost 118-66 to the Detroit Pistons on their home floor. Celtics leading scorer Paul Pierce led the team with 23 points but their second leading scorer Antoine Walker shot a horrific 1-of-15 from the field, scoring just six points. The Celtics are one of the few teams on this list that not only made the playoffs during said season but won a playoff series.

Brooklyn Nets: 52 points, 1978

During the 1978-1979 season, the then New Jersey Nets lost by 40 points three times with the peak coming in a 52-point loss to the Houston Rockets. Eight of the 10 players that played for the Rockets scored in double figures with the Rockets outscoring the Nets in each quarter by double figures.

Charlotte Hornets: 50 points, 2000

On January 10, 2000, the Charlotte Hornets lost 137-87 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Hornets’ leading scorer Eddie Jones did not play in the game while their second-leading scorer Derrick Coleman played just 12 minutes. Tragically, this would be the final game for Hornets guard Bobby Phills as he was killed in a car accident two days later at the age of 30.

Chicago Bulls: 56 points, 2018

Chicago Bulls worst loss, Boston Celtics
Jan 13, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) puts up a shot over Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine (8) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls worst loss came on December 8, 2018 when they fell to the Boston Celtics 133-77. The Celtics’ starting lineup nearly outscored the Bulls entire team, contributing 71 of their team’s points. Meanwhile, the Bulls starting lineup scored just 27 of their team’s 77 points and remained scoreless through the first quarter.

Cleveland Cavaliers: 55 points, 2011

In the Cavs’ first season without LeBron James on their roster, the team went on to suffer their worst loss in a game falling by the score of 112-57 on January 11, 2011. The Lakers scored 57 points in the first half, equaling the Cavaliers point total for the game. Only two players for Cleveland scored in double figures with the starting lineup combining to shoot 8-of-37 from the field.

Dallas Mavericks: 58 points, 1992

This game came in the worst season for the Dallas Mavericks in franchise history that saw them finish with an 11-71 record. Their worst game saw them lose 139-81 to the Sacramento Kings on December 29, 1992. This was the Mavericks’ sixth loss in what would become a 15-game losing streak as well as their second of three losing streaks of at least 10 games.

Denver Nuggets: 48 points, 1980

This came in the final game of the season for the Nuggets that saw them lose 143-95 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite taking such a one-sided loss, the leading scorer actually came from Denver Nuggets forward Bob Wilkerson who finished with 31 points. Seven of the Bucks 10 players scored in double figures with Pat Cummings leading them in scoring with 30 points off the bench.

Detroit Pistons: 59 points, 1978

Although the Pistons would record a franchise worst 16-66 record in the 1979-1980 season, they suffered their worst loss in the season prior. It’s the Milwaukee Bucks once again handing a team their worst loss in franchise history, beating the Pistons 143-84 on December 26, 1978. This game was highlighted by a second quarter that saw the Bucks outscore the Pistons 45-20, taking a 38-point lead into halftime.

Golden State Warriors: 63 points, 1972

Toward the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1971-1972 season that saw them finish with a then-NBA record 69-13 record including a record 33-game win streak, they handed the Warriors their worst loss. The final score was 162-99. Seven different players for the Lakers scored at least 15 points led by Gail Goodrich who scored 30 points. The Warriors were actually a very good team as they finished the regular season with a 51-31 record.

Houston Rockets: 56 points, 1986

It was during the 1986-1987 season that saw the Rockets take a 136-80 loss to the Seattle Supersonics. This loss came on the Rockets’ home floor and saw Hakeem Olajuwon miss the game. The Rockets would make the playoffs and win their first-round playoff series before losing in the second round to the Seattle Supersonics in six games.

Indiana Pacers: 59 points, 1977

In the Pacers’ first season in the NBA following the merger with the ABA, they would suffer their worst loss in franchise history losing 150-91 to the Golden State Warriors. While the Pacers actually put forth a good offensive effort with five different players scoring in double figures, the Golden State Warriors had 10 players score in double figures.

Los Angeles Clippers: 51 points, 2020

NBA rumors: Kawhi Leonard
Mar 3, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

As previously mentioned, this game took place Sunday night and saw the Clippers take a 124-73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. While Kawhi Leonard did not play for the Clippers, the Mavericks played without Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks set an NBA record, taking a 50-point lead into halftime leading 77-27.

Los Angeles Lakers: 49 points, 2017

Worst loss in Lakers franchise history
Mar 7, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) keeps the ball away from Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry (30) during the second half at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their worst season in franchise history and in their first season without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers would suffer their worst loss losing to the Dallas Mavericks by the 122-73. Seven different players scored in double figures for Dallas while the Lakers only had two players score in double figures. The difference in the game was from the three-point line as the Mavericks made 17 threes to the Lakers’ three.

Memphis Grizzlies: 61 points, 2018

In the 2017-2018 season, the Grizzlies not only snapped a seven-season playoff streak, but they finished with a 22-60 record. It was their worst mark since the 2008-2009 season. This peaked when they took a 140-79 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on March 22, 2018. Neither Mike Conley nor Marc Gasol played in the game for the Grizzlies. Kemba Walker shined for the Hornets, finishing with 46 points on 13-of-18 shooting and making 10 three-pointers.

Miami Heat: 68 points, 1991

On December 17, 1991, the most lopsided game in NBA history took place seeing the Miami Heat lose to the Cleveland Cavaliers 148-80. After taking a 20-point lead into halftime, the Cleveland Cavaliers turned up the pressure in the second half, outscoring the Heat 75-27. The Cavs’ five leading scorers outscored the Heat’s entire team en route to contributing 86 points.

Milwaukee Bucks: 48 points (twice), 1990/1995

Like the Hawks, the Bucks worst loss also came in the playoffs, falling by 54 points in the 2015 playoffs. However, their worst regular season loss has come by 48 points on two different occasions. The first came on January 27, 1990 when the Bucks lost 144-96 to the Utah Jazz. Then, on February 20, 1995, they lost 152-104 to the Orlando Magic. The game against the Jazz saw Karl Malone score a career high 61 points.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 48 points, 2014

The Timberwolves worst loss came in the eighth game of the 2014-2015 season when they fell by the score of 139-91 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans were extremely efficient, shooting 67% from the field including shooting 15-of-20 from three-point range.

New Orleans Pelicans: 46 points, 2019

Worst NBA lost Pelicans history.
Dec 7, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) reacts to a foul call during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans hold the NBA record for the worst loss in NBA playoff history, losing by 58 points to the Denver Nuggets in 2009. However, last season saw them take their worst regular season loss losing 130-84 to the Dallas Mavericks. The Pelicans had an off shooting night from three-point range going 3-of-32 from deep.

New York Knicks: 62 points, 1960

The Knicks became the first team to lose a game by 60 points after falling162-100 against the Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers) on December 25, 1960. All but one player for the Nationals scored in double figures with seven players scoring at least 15 points.

Oklahoma City Thunder: 73 points, 2021

Even without Ja Morant in the mix for this game, the Thunder couldn’t do anythingt to stay with Memphis. They were down 36 points at the half, only to be outscored 39-17 in the final stanza — losing by the score of 152-79. It’s the largest margin of loss in the history of the NBA. That’s just gross.

Orlando Magic: 47 points, 2017

The Magic’s worst loss came on April 10, 2017 when they fell by the score of 122-75 to the Chicago Bulls. This was actually their second loss by at least 40 points that season after losing 121-81 against the Charlotte Hornets the previous month.

Philadelphia 76ers: 56 points, 1993 (twice)

On two different occasions in the same season, the Philadelphia 76ers lost by 56 points making them the only team in NBA history to lose two games by at least 55 points in the same season. The first game came on January 2, 1993 when the 76ers lost 154-98 to the Sacramento Kings. Despite finishing the season 25-57, the Kings became the only team to win back-to-back games by at least 55 points. The 76ers’ second 56-point loss came two months later when they fell by the score of 149-93 to the Seattle Supersonics.

Phoenix Suns: 48 points, 2017-2018

NBA worst loss, Phoenix Suns
Oct 18, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe (2) alongside Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) in the second quarter at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns lost by a franchise record 48 points twice in the 2017-2018 season. The first came in their season opener, losing 124-76 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Then, they lost 129-81 to the San Antonio Spurs on February 7th. Five days after their loss to the Spurs, the Suns lost by 46 points against the Golden State Warriors.

Portland Trail Blazers: 65 points, 1998

On February 27, 1998, the Portland Trail Blazers lost 124-59 to the Indiana Pacers. This is the second most lopsided loss a team has suffered in NBA history. This was not a good shooting game for the Blazers as they shot 3-of17 from three-point range and 8-of-19 from the free throw line.

Sacramento Kings: 62 points, 1991

During the 1991-1992 season, the Sacramento Kings suffered their worst loss in franchise history losing 153-91 to the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors finished the game with three different players scoring at least 25 points. The free throw shooting was the biggest difference in the game as the Warriors shot 36-of-40 from the line while the Kings shot just 8-of-12.

San Antonio Spurs: 46 points, 1989

A season prior to David Robinson joining the team after fulfilling his services with the Naval Academy, the Spurs suffered their worst loss in franchise history by the score of 137-91 to the Phoenix Suns on April 15, 1989. This was the Spurs’ second 40-point loss that season as they fell 126-82 to the Dallas Mavericks in January.

Toronto Raptors: 46 points, 1996

A month after taking an upset win over the 72-10 Chicago Bulls, the Raptors suffered their worst loss in franchise history. Toward the end of the Raptors’ first season in the NBA, they lost 125-79 to the New York Knicks.

Utah Jazz: 56 points, 1979

While the Utah Jazz hold the record for most lopsided loss in an NBA Finals game, losing by 42 to the Chicago Bulls in the 1997 NBA Finals, their worst regular season loss came in the 1970s as the New Orleans Jazz. On March 14, 1979, the Jazz lost 158-102 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Three different players for the Bucks scored 20 points and an additional three players scored 15 points.

Washington Wizards: 52 points, 1971

In the same season that the Washington Wizards lost a game by 52 points, they also lost a game by 52 points. On January 10, 1971, the then Baltimore Bullets lost 151-99 to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bullets are the only team that went on to make the NBA Finals on this list and ironically lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.