The Biggest NBA Upsets of the Past 30 Years

January 11, 2022
Lakers vs Warriors upset

With 12 consecutive victories over the Detroit Pistons, it was no surprise the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks were favored to beat the team from the Motor City. The Bucks were even playing a home, which is probably part of the reason Milwaukee was a 17-point favorite over Detroit just last Monday, Jan. 3. 

Even if the Pistons covered – they are now 18-20 ATS and 9-9 ATS at home this season – there was just no way they could beat the Bucks, right? Detroit was just 6-28 prior to that game in Milwaukee. Despite having the services of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday – the Bucks’ best players – Detroit was able to pull of the biggest upset in the NBA since 1995. Saddiq Bey hit eight three-pointers and scored 34 points to lead the Pistons to the improbable upset.

Surprisingly, since 1995 the Pistons win is not the biggest upset in the NBA. Here’s a look at biggest upsets (against the spread) in the NBA over the past nearly 30 years.


Celtics-Cavaliers 2016-17

This is Cleveland with LeBron James in 2016. James would do something he doesn’t do very often. He only scored 11 points for the Cavs. Kevin Love had 28, but Boston, a 16-point underdog, wbasketball betsould overcome a 21-point deficit and win 111-108 in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA playoffs. James would shoot just 4-of-13 from the floor while Boston’s Marcus Smart hit seven three-pointers. Interestingly, the Cavs were favored again over Boston in Game 4…by 15 points.


Lakers-Warriors 2015-16

Golden State entered their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on March 6, 2016, with a record of 55-5. Remember, this is before the LeBron James era in Los Angeles and the Lakers were in the midst of a rebuild. The Warriors had won the three previous games against the Lakers by a combined 73 points that season. The Lakers had won just one of their previous 11 games, but somehow managed to pull the upset as 17-point underdogs.

The biggest factor in the game was Golden State’s inability to hit shots from outside. The Warriors would hit just 4-of-30 three point-attempts. Stephen Curry, the best ever in the NBA from behind the arc, hit just 1-of-10 and 6-of-20 shots overall. The Lakers didn’t just win either. They blew out Golden State, 112-95. That win improved L.A. to just 13-51 overall.


Nuggets-Wizards 1997-98

Denver would finish the 1997-98 season with just 11 wins. One of them came against the Washington Wizards, who were 17-point favorites to win. The Wizards were 34-32 and headed toward the playoffs while Denver was just 8-59. Somehow, the Nuggets would win 90-89. Denver would tie the NBA record for consecutive losses (23) which has since been broken. The Nuggets also have four of the 25 biggest upsets since 1995 winning games as a 15-point underdog, two games as a 15.5-point underdog, and the win over Washington as a 17-point underdog at most sportsbooks.


Nets-Bucks 2020

During the 2020 coronavirus-shortened season, Orlando got to witness the NBA’s biggest upset of the past nearly three decades. Milwaukee was heavily favored over Brooklyn. The Bucks were 54-14 and Brooklyn was 32-35 entering the game. The Nets were missing nine players that night and found themselves an 18-point underdog.

basketball sportsbook

Looking at the Nets box score – a collection of players most fans have never heard of – there is simply no way the Bucks could lose. And, that’s why they play the game. Somebody named Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 26 points to lead Brooklyn to a 119-116 victory over the Bucks. 

A number of bettors cashed in big on the Nets. An $800 moneyline bet on Brooklyn paid out $12,800. Another $800 bet on the moneyline at +1300 paid $10,400.