Top 5 teams with the best NBA playoffs record of all time

Golden State Warriors win the 2017 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors win the 2017 NBA Finals

As the 2020-21 NBA season is about to conclude, the anticipation and excitement of the NBA playoffs has begun. Fans and analysts have started to break down the postseason picture and the bracket is getting clearer by the day.

As fans look at the current standings and speculate about the upcoming NBA playoffs, we remember the earlier great postseason runs of all time.

Many of the best NBA playoffs records have been set by some of the greatest teams in NBA history such as Stephen Curry's Warriors, the 'Kobe-Shaq' Lakers and even Michael Jordan's Bulls.

Best NBA Playoffs record of all time

We have seen several amazing teams crumble under the bright lights of the NBA playoffs. The true test of a great team is how they handle the pressure of the NBA playoffs and dominate another team in the seven-game series.

Some consider the NBA playoffs stage tougher than the regular season, and only the teams with a championship mentality and supreme talent succeed in the postseason showdown.

Let's take a look a the top 5 teams with the best NBA playoffs record of all time.

Honorable Mention - 1999 San Antonio Spurs - 15-2 (.882)

1999 San Antonio Spurs
1999 San Antonio Spurs

Going on to win their first NBA championship in the team's history, the San Antonio Spurs led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson went through one of the best NBA playoff runs of all time.

One of the team's two losses came in the first round when the Minnesota Timberwolves, led by Kevin Garnett, won Game 2 to tie the series 1-1. Back in 1999, the first-round series was in a 'best-of-five' format. The Spurs went on to win the next two games and defeat the Timberwolves 3-1.

The San Antonio Spurs faced the LA Lakers in the second round of the NBA playoffs and defeated the team with Shaquille O'Neal and a young Kobe Bryant 4-0.

They went on to the Western Conference Finals where they faced the Portland Trail Blazers led by Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Jermaine O'Neal. The Trail Blazers fell to the superior strategy of the Spurs and got swept 4-0.

This championship and NBA playoffs run will always have the dreaded asterisk next to it as it was a lockout season. The 1st-seeded Spurs eventually faced the 8th-seeded New York Knicks in the NBA Finals and everyone said it was an easy matchup to overcome.

However, the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks did spoil the San Antonio Spurs' 12-game NBA playoffs winning streak by taking Game 3. Avery Johnson dropped 34 points to get the series to 2-1.

However, it didn't faze the dominant San Antonio Spurs, and Gregg Popovich guided his team to their first NBA title.

#5 1989 Detroit Pistons - 15-2 (.882)

1989 Detroit Pistons
1989 Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas also known as 'The Bad Boy Pistons' has one of the best NBA Playoff runs of all time. Not only did they face tough opponents along the way, they never gave any of them a chance to win. Thomas is regarded as one of the best point guards ever and he took the Pistons to their first-ever NBA championship with the help of Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman.

The 1st-seeded Pistons started their postseason run in expected fashion, sweeping the 8th-seeded Boston Celtics (without Larry Bird). They proceeded to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, where they took on the Milwaukee Bucks led by Sidney Moncrief and Ricky Pierce. However, the Bucks were also no match for the Bad Boy Pistons as the latter swept them as well.

Entering into the Conference Finals, this series was the most anticipated one by the fans. The league expected the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to upset the Detroit Pistons. In the Pistons' spectacular NBA playoffs run, where they went 15-2, the two losses didn't come in the NBA Finals, but in this series.

It was certainly a nail-biter for the first few games as the Bulls took a 1-0 lead but the Pistons came back in Game 2 to tie it 1-1. Game 3 is an iconic game where it seemed like Detroit might take the lead but Michael Jordan hit the game-winner with 3 seconds left and gave Chicago a 2-1 lead in the series.

However, Detroit turned it up a notch and implemented what would later be known as 'Jordan rules' focused entirely on stopping him. They won the next 3 games in a row to take the series 4-2.

In the NBA Finals, the Pistons faced a stacked LA Lakers squad run by Magic Johnson, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy. However, nothing seemed to stop them now and they ended up sweeping them 4-0 to win the NBA title. What made the Pistons' sweep even sweeter was the fact that the LA Lakers were on a perfect postseason run, having swept every series on their way to the NBA Finals.

#4 1991 Chicago Bulls - 15-2 (.882)

1991 Chicago Bulls
1991 Chicago Bulls

The first time Michael Jordan captured an NBA championship, he led one of the best NBA playoff runs of all time. After constantly getting beat in the NBA playoffs years prior, he finally said "enough is enough" and took his game up a notch.

The 1st-seeded Chicago Bulls swept the Patrick Ewing-led New York Knicks in the first round and then proceeded to eliminate the Charles Barkley-led Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Jordan had 45 points in Game 3 but it wasn't enough, as the 76ers ended the Bulls' perfect run. However, it didn't make much difference to a hungry Bulls squad as they won the series 4-1.

The Eastern Conference Finals was the much awaited matchup where Michael Jordan and the Bulls would face their nemesis, the Detroit Pistons. After losing to the 'Bad Boy Pistons' three years in a row in the NBA playoffs, this year they were more motivated than ever. They swept the two-time reigning champions and ruined their three-peat hopes.

However, the next step in the Chicago Bulls' NBA playoffs run would be to go head-to-head with the LA Lakers, led by Magic Johnson. This would be Jordan's first NBA Finals appearance and Johnson's 9th.

The Bulls knew they were outmatched when it came to championship experience and to make their title road even tougher, the LA Lakers took Game 1 and the series lead. However, the Chicago Bulls didn't let anything deter them from their mission and they went on to win the next four games in a row. They won the 1991 NBA Finals 4-1 and captured their first-ever NBA title.

#3 1983 Philadelphia 76ers - 12-1 (.923)

1983 Philadelphia 76ers
1983 Philadelphia 76ers

After losing to the LA Lakers in the NBA Finals twice in the last three years, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired center Moses Malone in the offseason. The addition of Malone was the result of the 76ers' inability to neutralize Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His addition certainly paid dividends as the Philadelphia 76ers went on to win 65 games in the season. Moses Malone predicted that they'd need to sweep every series to win the title, famously saying 'Fo, Fo, Fo'.

The 1983 NBA Playoffs were the last year that the 12-team format would take place. It was also the final year that the first round of the NBA Playoffs would be a 'best-of-three' series instead of 'best-of-five'.

However, having won the conference, the 76ers did not play in the first round and faced off with the New York Knicks, defeating them 4-0. They then went on to face the Milwaukee Bucks, where they'd concede one game in Game 4. However, they won the series 4-1.

The NBA Finals showdown was where the Philadelphia 76ers faced off with their nemesis, the LA Lakers. The fact that they lost to them in the past, sweeping them 4-0 made it that much sweeter.

#2 2001 LA Lakers - 15-1 (.938)

2001 LA Lakers
2001 LA Lakers

The reigning champions, LA Lakers spectacularly started their 2001 NBA Playoffs. Although they weren't the first seed, it didn't seem to stop their dominance. They faced the Rasheed Wallace-Scottie Pippen Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs and eliminated them in a three-game sweep. They went on to face the Sacramento Kings in the Conference Semi-finals led by Chris Webber, Jason Williams and Peja Stojakovic. However, the Sacramento Kings would also fall to the mercy of the LA Lakers and would get swept 4-0.

The Western Conference Finals of the 2001 NBA playoffs was the matchup people were waiting for. The 1st-seeded San Antonio Spurs led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson would have a home-court advantage in this series. The Spurs won the title in 1999 and the Lakers won it in 2000.

The last two NBA champions would face off in what everyone expected to be a thriller. However, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were just too dominant for anyone to stop. They swept the Spurs as well, becoming the second team in franchise history to sweep every series on their way to the NBA Finals.

In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Philadelphia 76ers' leader and league MVP Allen Iverson would spoil the LA Lakers' perfect NBA playoffs run. In a shocking overtime thriller upset, Iverson would drop 48 points and hand the LA Lakers their first loss of the postseason.

However, that was as great as it would get for the Philadelphia 76ers as they would go on to lose the next 4 games in a row. The LA Lakers ended the 2001 NBA playoffs with the then-best record in the postseason of 15-1. Their run was so historic and incredible because they faced four 50-win teams on their way to the title.

#1 2017 Golden State Warriors - 16-1 (.941)

2017 Golden State Warriors
2017 Golden State Warriors

The most dominant NBA playoffs run of all time, the 2017 Golden State Warriors were just too powerful and scary. After their 2016 NBA Finals collapse, where they lost after being up 3-1, the Warriors recruited the four-time scoring champion, Kevin Durant to join their team. The Warriors, led by Stephen Curry broke Michael Jordan's season-win record and went 73-9 in 2015-16. Adding a force like Durant to a 73-win team would make anyone shake in their boots.

They started their NBA playoffs run like anyone would expect, sweeping everyone in their path. They faced the Damian Lillard-led Portland Trail Blazers in the first round and swept them 4-0. They then took on a young Utah Jazz team in the second-round who were simply incapable of even making a scratch on the Golden State Warriors. After that sweep, they took on a 61-win San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals of the 2017 NBA playoffs.

However, Kawhi Leonard injured himself in Game 1 and that wrecked any hope of handing the Warriors a loss. The Golden State Warriors proceeded to sweep the Spurs as well, joining the 2001 LA Lakers as one of the rare teams to sweep every series on their way to the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals was the main event with one of the best modern rivalries in the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James spoiled the Warriors' 73-9 season and Stephen Curry was looking for revenge. This time with Kevin Durant by his side, Curry and the Golden State Warriors took a 3-0 series lead continuing their perfect NBA playoffs run. However, they would fall in Game 4 to Cleveland after James and Kyrie Irving combined for 71 points.

Nevertheless, the Warriors achieved what they hoped for, winning a title on their home floor in front of their own crowd. They defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 and completed the most dominant NBA playoffs run of all time.

Also Read: Ranking 5 greatest players in LA Lakers history

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Edited by david.benjamin
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