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Five most dominant NBA playoff teams ever

Jun 11, 2012, 1:04 PM EDT

Kobe Shaquille O'Neal Lakers Getty Images

There was a point a couple weeks ago, when San Antonio had won 10 in a row in the playoffs and looked headed to the NBA finals, it looked like the Spurs could be one of the better NBA playoffs teams ever. Then the Oklahoma City Thunder happened.

No team out of this year’s NBA playoffs is going to be linked with the most dominant playoff teams in the league’s history. We may be at the start of a fantastic Heat/Thunder rivalry that lasts a few years, but neither of these squads has been dominant in the playoffs.

Still, this talk raises the question:

Which were the five most dominant NBA playoff teams ever? Here’s my list.

5) 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks. You think you can slow a team with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at his peak in the paint and Oscar Robertson on the wing? Good luck. These Bucks averaged 118 points a game, won 66 games in the regular season and shot 50.9 percent as a team. They went 12-2 in the playoffs and steamrolled everyone in their path including a sweep of Baltimore in the NBA finals.

4) 1990-91 Chicago Bulls. It was the first title for Michael Jordan and the Bulls and after years of running into the wall that was the Detroit Pistons (three straight playoff eliminations) they broke through with a vengeance and went 15-2 in the playoffs. That Jordan guy was pretty good in the playoffs — 31.1 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting, 8.4 assists and 6.4 rebounds.

3) 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers. Everyone seems to overlook this team and forget how great they were — they killed it during the regular season (they were 59-7 at one point) then Moses Malone, Julius Erving and team turned it on in the playoffs. Malone predicted a “fo’ fo’ fo’” sweep through the playoffs, and they came close going 12-1 and that included a sweep of the Showtime era Lakers in the finals.

2) 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The best team ever, they won 72 regular season games and lost just one game getting through the Eastern Conference. Then Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and friends raced out to a 3-0 lead over Seattle in the finals before they took their foot off the gas pedal and dropped a couple to the Sonics. But they went 15-3 in the playoffs and if you put these teams in a tournament it’s hard to see who beats them. Unless…

1) 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers. The middle year of the Lakers three-pete with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, they coasted and dealt with injuries through much of the season. But when the playoffs came they flipped the switch — they went 15-1 and that only loss was in overtime to the Allen-Iverson led 76ers. No team has ever had a better playoff run.

  1. cdins - Jun 11, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Worst list ever

  2. ron05342 - Jun 11, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    1971-72 Lakers, come on how can you skip that team?

    12-3 run. We won’t even talk about how many records they STILL own in the record book for that season.

    • blueintown - Jun 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      What records do they own other than the 33 game win streak?

    • franchiseplaya - Jun 11, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      I think you could put that Lakers team in there in place of the 90-91 Bulls. The list is pretty solid tho. A case can be made for all of them.

  3. nolanwiffle - Jun 11, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    1986 Boston Celtics:

    * 67-15 regular season record (40-1 at home)
    * 15-3 playoff record
    * 3-0 sweep over Jordan’s Bulls
    * 4-1 over Dominique’s Hawks
    * 4-0 sweep over Bucks (Cummings, Moncrief)
    * 4-2 over Houston’s “Twin Towers”

    Larry Bird was Finals MVP averaging 24 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, and 2.7 steals. He was joined on the front line by Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Bill Walton.

    They were to be joined by Lenny Bias that next season. The greatest team of all time was set to get even greater…..

  4. Mr. Wright 212 - Jun 11, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    72-73 Knicks were the equivalent of the ’03 Spurs. Complete team.

    • badintent - Jun 12, 2012 at 1:37 AM

      Damn right and the starting team IQ was 500 points over the next team .ONE u.S. SENATOR, 2 GMs, one basketball player that owns $20 million dollars of Island property and one guy with a record label.The bench had some guy that as a coach won 10 NBA titles, pretty smart too.

  5. rajbais - Jun 11, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    As much as it hurts me as a Bulls fan the
    2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers truly are!!!

    15-1 is sick!!!! That’s why Phil Jackson is better than Gregg Popovich!!! Every great coach has players that can win enough!!! It’s about the next step!!!

    In order to beat the Lakers playoff dominance of 2001 you need to go 16-0!!!

  6. loungefly74 - Jun 11, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    ahhh yeah..Shaq in his prime…that 2001 team destroyed everybody. the roster was so talented.

  7. 20dollardinners - Jun 11, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Agree on the Lakers. Shaq was so dominant that year I remember rumors about changing the rules of the game for offense foul / defensive foul. He was the most unguardable player I have ever seen, that year. Certainly MJ and others were more clutch – but literally there was no way to guard Shaq that year.

    I remember the loss too – Allen Iverson draining the corner shot and stepping over the fallen Laker.

    • dacapt704 - Jun 11, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      That was poor lil Tyronn Lue…LOL

    • ihavenonickname - Jun 11, 2012 at 5:25 PM

      ya, that was great. was that tyrone lou on the ground?

    • camnellum12 - Jun 11, 2012 at 5:44 PM

      AI stepped over Tyronn Lue. And as a Laker fan, that s**t was hilarious.

  8. bigwii - Jun 11, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    this list doesn’t have a Celtics team on there they one 8 in a row in the 60s and 11 in 13 years this is wrong

  9. broadstbully - Jun 11, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Game 1 of the ’01 Finals. My greatest memory as a Sixers fan. We lost the series, but nobody was beating the Lakers. Rust or not, the Sixers got in Goliath’s ass that night.

  10. ss3walkman - Jun 11, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    I refuse to put the Lakers over the 72-10 record breaking Bulls even if we’re talkin playoffs. They lost points losing to the Sixers. That should’ve been a sweep.

  11. sal11 - Jun 11, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    I agree that there’s no way the Thunder could jump into this top 5. But I am surprised that nobody’s mentioned the possibility that, with a Finals sweep (or even a win in 5), they might at least be able to knock on the door. 12-3 against three teams that look awesome on paper, each with a Hall of Fame player. Sure, the Mavericks were deeply flawed and the Lakers look much better on paper than they do on the court, but that’s still damn impressive. If the Thunder manage to finish 16-3 or 16-4, that’s a borderline all-time great run, featuring a team full of players nowhere near their primes yet.

    In a word: yikes.

  12. marksp18 - Jun 11, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    At least the writer had enough sense to list the Bucks team. Too many young fans nowadays (and probably this writer) have no clue about just how dominant Lew Alcindor was when he came in the league.

    How they are 5th is a mystery. Shaq would have been the only player to even have a chance to bother Alcindor but even he would have been destroyed. The Bulls had no center and would have been killed. The Sixers had Moses Malone who also would have been destroyed by Alcindor.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the greatest basketball player of all time from high school, through college, and into the pros. Who else touches his resume? Only Bill Russell can try and claim the top spot since he won a couple of college championships.

  13. j0esixpack - Jun 11, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    There have been a lot of dominant teams over the years… Thats the problem with this list. Everyone’s 5 is bound to be different.

    You’re better off breaking this down to different eras. The Celtics string of titles in the 50s and 60s is daunting but no one is really going to compare that to modern free agency.

  14. tashkalucy - Jun 11, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    “1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers. ……and that included a sweep of the Showtime era Lakers in the finals.”

    For the record – Magic was lost to injury early in the series and the team was built abound him and his passing. They didn’t have time to figure out what to do without Magic playing…..maybe if the coaching staff was given a few weeks to come up with something……………

  15. andrejohnsonforpresident - Jun 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    I said this when shaq retired. he’s possibly the best player to have ever played when he was in his prime. if he could have shot even just 20% better at the ft line he would’ve been 1st in a few more categories when he called it quits. should’ve taken better care of himself as well.

  16. stoudemelo - Jun 12, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    The headline pic is from the 1999-2000

    Good work

  17. albie23 - Jun 12, 2012 at 3:36 AM

    The 72-10 Bulls should be #1!! The 00-01 Lakers played 76ers who came out of a weak Eastern Conference that season and lost a game they had no business losing. The 95-96 Bulls (72 wins) played the Sonics who many forget had won 67 games that year.

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