Where This Lakers Playoff Run Ranks All-Time in Franchise History

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 7, 2020

Where This Lakers Playoff Run Ranks All-Time in Franchise History

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers are the 2020 champions following a 106-93 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday.

    With a 16-5 record and an average point differential of plus-6.9, this run should go down as one of the most dominant in Lakers lore.

    After Game 6, these Lakers are fifth in franchise history in postseason plus-minus and ninth in playoff winning percentage.

    Numbers struggle to capture caveats, though. When basketball historians look back on this season, some might point out the novelty of the bubble, the fortune of not facing the Los Angeles Clippers or Milwaukee Bucks and the fact that a torn plantar fascia cost Miami Goran Dragic, its pre-Finals leading playoff scorer, for much of the series.

    Of course, all LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers could do was face the teams in front of them. And with the exception of a few hiccups here and there, they cruised past all four of those teams.

    A dramatic Miami comeback would've blown up the narrative, but Sunday's blowout put an emphatic end to the series.

    After convincingly winning Game 6 and capping off the run to the championship, where does this rank among the Lakers' best playoff runs ever?

5. 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Matt Sayles/Associated Press

    Playoff Record: 16-7

    Playoff Plus-Minus: Plus-166 (plus-7.2 per game)

    There's a temptation to go with one of the George Mikan-led Lakers squads of the 1940s and '50s here. The 1971-72 team led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain also deserves a mention.

    But the level of competition and a smaller playoff field in Mikan's era and a much smaller average margin of victory for West and Wilt's squad lead us to a more recent title.

    In the 2009 playoffs, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol led the Lakers to a 16-7 record, the fourth-best total plus-minus among L.A. title teams and the seventh-best plus-minus per game.

    Other than an unexpected seven-game test against Metta World Peace, Aaron Brooks and the Houston Rockets in the second round, this team largely cruised to the championship.

    It was also Kobe's first title as the unquestioned No. 1. After winning three straight with Shaquille O'Neal years earlier, Kobe averaged 30.2 points, 5.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds in the 2009 postseason. He piled up the 15th most wins over replacement player of all time for an individual playoff performance.

    Of course, he didn't do it alone.

    "I don't win those championships without Pau," Kobe said at the Oscars in 2018. "The city of L.A. doesn't have those two championships without Pau."

    That postseason, Gasol averaged 18.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 blocks. In the Finals alone, his 7.5 box plus/minus dwarfed prime Dwight Howard's.

    Beyond that top two, this L.A. team had plenty of contributors up and down the roster. Lamar Odom averaged 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 51.4 percent from three. Trevor Ariza averaged 11.3 points and shot 47.6 percent from deep. Derek Fisher was the steady hand at the wheel. And Andrew Bynum had a handful of solid games along the way as a 21-year-old.

4. 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Playoff Record: 16-5

    Playoff Plus-Minus: Plus-144 (plus-6.9 per game)

    A comfortable Game 6 win put L.A. firmly in this discussion, and though they're only in their first season together, LeBron and AD already look like an all-time-great duo.

    Both players rocked an eight-plus box plus/minus (MVP-level) this postseason. Davis averaged 27.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals. LeBron finished at 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game, good enough to secure his fourth Finals MVP trophy.

    With those two clicking, there wasn't much more the Lakers needed to secure the 2020 championship, but they got some help anyway.

    Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope both averaged double figures in the playoffs. Rajon Rondo had some big games, including 19 points on 11 shots in the clincher, and averaged 6.6 assists. Alex Caruso and Danny Green provided perimeter defense. Markieff Morris shot the lights out. Even Dwight Howard showed flashes of his old self on the way to his first title.

    Though the caveats mentioned in the intro may linger for some, this group does deserve credit for taking down some of the game's best offensive players.

    Among players with at least 5,000 career minutes, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic are fifth, seventh and 10th, respectively, in NBA history in career offensive box plus/minus. L.A. beat them all.

    The question of how the Finals might've played out with a healthy Goran Dragic remains, but the Lakers weren't exactly playing hopscotch up until this point.

3. 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Lennox McLendon/Associated Press

    Playoff Record: 15-4

    Playoff Plus-Minus: Plus-193 (plus-10.2 per game)

    Led by a balanced attack in which Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Magic Johnson and Byron Scott all averaged between 21.9 and 16.9 points, the Lakers absolutely rolled through the Western Conference in 1985.

    They also went through multiple Hall of Famers, including Clyde Drexler and Alex English, on that side of the bracket.

    In the Finals, they faced four more Hall of Famers, legendary Boston Celtics Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson. After losing Game 1 of that series 148-114, they steamrolled their way through the next five, winning by an average of 10 points per game.

    In a star-studded postseason, no one shined brighter than the Lakers.

    Magic averaged a ridiculous 17.5 points and 15.2 assists. Kareem, in his age-37 season, put up 21.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 blocks. Worthy added 21.5 while shooting 62.2 percent from the field. Scott had 16.9 and shot 47.6 percent from three. Three more players averaged double figures.

    This team was deep, talented and had an almost rhythmic quality on offense.

    "You play to a beat, on a stride, sort of," Magic told Sports Illustrated's Bruce Newman in 1985. "Sometimes if I've been listening to a song, it will come up in my mind during a game."

    His teammates were clearly in tune, and opponents couldn't keep pace.

2. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Lennox Mclendon/Associated Press

    Playoff Record: 15-3

    Playoff Plus-Minus: Plus-205 (plus-11.4 per game)

    It may have been difficult to believe in 1985, especially given Kareem's age, but just two years later, the Lakers put together an even more dominant playoff run in 1987.

    Most of the faces were the same, though Worthy (23.6 points on 59.1 percent shooting) and Magic (21.8 points) took on greater scoring responsibility as Kareem (19.2 points) played past his 40th birthday.

    One addition to the rotation was A.C. Green, who moved into the starting five and led the team in postseason rebounding as a second-year big.

    Other than that, it was Showtime as usual, only a bit more mature. And through each Western playoff series, they were never challenged.

    They went 11-1 against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors and Seattle SuperSonics in the West. Then, they upended Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and the Celtics in six games with an average point differential of 4.2.

    In that series, Magic asserted himself against his longtime rival, Bird, with more points, assists and steals. Through those six games, he averaged an absurd 26.2 points, 13.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 steals.

1. 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    Playoff Record: 15-1

    Playoff Plus-Minus: Plus-204 (plus-12.8 per game)

    The 2000-01 Lakers were one ridiculous 48-point performance from Allen Iverson away from a perfect postseason run. Even after losing Game 1 of the Finals, their second straight championship felt inevitable.

    L.A. was coming off sweeps of three star-laden teams in the West.

    The Portland Trail Blazers, led by Damon Stoudamire, Steve Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis, were balanced, experienced and dispatched in three games.

    The Sacramento Kings were near the peak of their early-2000s powers with Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac. They couldn't manage a win, either.

    The San Antonio Spurs had already won a title with Tim Duncan and David Robinson, and they weren't even close. L.A. won those four games by an average of 22.3 points.

    Then, the Philadelphia 76ers' one-man show was overpowered by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in five games.

    By the time the postseason was over, O'Neal had ridiculous averages of 30.4 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.4 blocks. Kobe wasn't far behind, with 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals.

    It was undoubtedly the league's best duo of the time, and its supporting cast wasn't too shabby, either. Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Horace Grant and Robert Horry all knew and excelled in their roles.

    Altogether, the Lakers made up a defense that could dominate when engaged. In the regular season, their 104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions ranked 21st, but that number plummeted to a first-place 97.9 in the playoffs.

    With that in place, there was more than enough offense from Shaq and Kobe to lead one of the most dominant playoff runs in NBA history.


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