What are the largest margins of defeats in NBA history?

On Monday (Nov. 22, 2021), the Bucks absolutely dominated the Magic at the Fiserv Forum.

Their final score of 123-92 doesn’t completely illustrate the real difference between both teams. With the game out of hand, by a huge margin, the Magic outscored the Bucks 36-18 in garbage time to bring their margin of defeat to a respectable 31 points, considering the margin of their largest deficit during the game.

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At halftime, Milwaukee led by a franchise-record 41 points (77-36), a lead they pushed up to 51 points. 

Every one of the 12 Bucks players to check into the game ended up getting their name on the score sheet, led by Jrue Holiday’s 19 points. Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly recorded a triple-double in just 24 minutes of action with 12 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

If they somehow managed to maintain that 51-point gap, they would have still not cracked the Top 10 largest margins of victory in NBA history. It would have got them close but they wouldn’t have made it.

What are the largest margins of defeat in NBA history?

The record for the largest margin of defeat was set in 1991, nearly 30 years ago in Cleveland when the Cavaliers beat the Miami Heat, a team only formed a couple of seasons ago, 148-80. 

Of the top 10 margins of defeats in NBA history, six have occurred after the introduction of the three-point line (1979) and four of those six occurred in the 1990s. 

Here’s a look at the top 10 margins of defeats in NBA history:

Point Margin Game (Winner) Final Score Date
68 Heat at Cavaliers 148-80 Dec. 17, 1991
65 Trail Blazers at Pacers 124-59 Feb. 27, 1998
63 Warriors at Lakers 162-99 Mar. 19, 1972
62 Kings at Warriors 153-91 Nov 2, 1991
  Knicks at [Syracuse] Nationals 162-100 Dec 25, 1960
61 Grizzlies at Hornets 140-79 Mar 22, 2018
59 Pistons at Bucks 143-84 Dec 26, 1978
  Pacers at Warriors 150-91 Mar 19, 1977
58 Mavericks at Kings 139-81 Dec 29, 1992
  Kings at Bucks 140-82 Dec 15, 1985

The most recent entry on the Top 10 came in 2018 when the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Memphis Grizzlies by 61 points. 

As recently as May 1, 2021, we nearly received a new entry to the leaderboard when the Indiana Pacers blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder 152-95. That 57-point margin of defeat ranks 11th all-time and seventh-most since the introduction of the three-point line.

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