The final five days of the NBA regular season are upon us, and as of Wednesday the Oklahoma City Thunder will have three games left on their schedule to decide their win total. For those who are unaware, Oklahoma City entered the season with a win total of 22.5 at SuperBook Sports. After a win at home March 31 against the Toronto Raptors, the Thunder needed just three wins over their final 25 games to surpass their win total. Lo and behold, we are less than a week from the season’s end, and this win total has yet to be decided.
As the losses kept coming, I asked: Is this the worst beat on a win total that we have ever seen? While I cannot answer that question, I can answer it when it comes to the NBA. Using the database SportsOddsHistory.com, I went back as far as the 1993-94 season win totals. After poring through the win totals and schedules on Basketball Reference, I can unequivocally conclude that losing this Thunder win total would be the worst win total beat in NBA history.
However, it has not happened yet. So I present the 10 worst win total beats in NBA history.
1. 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Over 66.5)
We start with some recent history. The dominant Warriors had one of the highest NBA win totals we have seen in the 2016-17 season. However, Under bettors were feeling themselves after Golden State lost a road game to San Antonio, dropping them to 52-14. The Warriors were just two losses from clinching the Under-66.5 win total with 16 games left, but this was no ordinary team. Golden State ripped off a 14-game winning streak after the loss and ended the season with a 15-1 record to go Over its win total by a half-game.
2. 2017-18 New York Knicks (Under 30.5)
The thing we tend to forget about bad beats is that they are wonderful wins for some, and that was the case here for VSiN Senior Editor Matt Youmans. Youmans had bet the Knicks Under their season win total of 30.5 but was staring at a likely loser. New York was not a good team by any stretch, but it was 23-28 after a win Jan. 30 over Brooklyn. However, three nights later, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL on a dunk attempt, and everything went south from there. After beating the Nets, the Knicks ended the season with a 6-25 record over the final 31 games. Over bettors who needed just eight wins were holding kindling by season’s end, and Youmans was buying a few extra Portillo’s hot dogs.
3. 1993-94 Philadelphia 76ers (Under 30.5)
Some of these win total beats will become less anecdotal because they were slightly before my time. When the Philadelphia 76ers were blowing this win total, I was my son’s age and not watching them drop an overtime game to Muggsy Bogues and the Hornets. However, I don’t need to remember to see what exactly transpired with this team. Before that loss to Charlotte, the 76ers actually beat Bogues and the bugs Feb. 7 for their 20th win of the season. Philadelphia needed just 11 wins over the final 36 contests to surpass its 30.5 win total, but the Sixers are not on this list for achieving that goal. The 76ers finished the season 5-31, and that includes a brutal 1-24 stretch.
4. 2012-13 Portland Trail Blazers (Under 34.5)
Some teams on this list are not very good, so to see them blow win totals over the final few games of a season should not be surprising. But this Portland team was pretty average, so the type of collapse this team suffered to end the 2012-13 season was a bit shocking. Portland beat Atlanta on March 23 for its 33rd win, and with 13 games left, Over bettors needed just two more wins. Those wins did not come. In fact, not a single win came for the rest of the season as Portland finished Damian Lillard’s rookie campaign on a 13-game losing streak.
5. 2010-11 New Jersey Nets (Under 24.5)
This one is pretty tough, too, but with a projected win total of 24.5, the Nets were not going to be any good to begin with. Still, Over bettors had some real hope after a win March 14 against Boston gave New Jersey its 22nd win. Just three wins over the last 17 contests separated the Nets from hitting the Over on their win total, but newly acquired Deron Williams played just six games the rest of the way and the team finished 2-15 to go Under the win total by a half-game.
6. 2003-04 Los Angeles Clippers (Under 30.5)
These days are when my Clippers fandom really took off. Sure, Corey Maggette and Elton Brand never won much, but Maggette was a treat to watch. If only he could have done more for Over bettors in the 2003-04 season. Maggette, Brand and Quentin Richardson combined for 82 points in a win over Phoenix on March 16 to give Los Angeles its 27th win. The Clippers needed just four wins over the final 15 games for Over bettors to cash, but that did not happen. Los Angeles not only went 1-14 in the final 15 games, it lost those 14 games by an average of 13.0 points.
7. 2001-02 Golden State Warriors (Under 23.5)
This is another instance when a bad team just cannot do a good thing for a bettor. Golden State grabbed its 17th win March 8 against Houston. With 23 games left, surely even a bad team like the Warriors could manage a measly seven wins before the season ended. But they did not. Golden State went 4-19 in those 23 games instead and go Under its win total by three victories.
8. 1996-97 Vancouver Grizzlies (Under 18.5)
Another bad team makes this list, so I would not quibble with anyone who wants to put this at the bottom. Vancouver was in just its second year of existence and Bryant Reeves was its second-best player. However, when bettors were sitting on Over 18.5 wins with 11 victories in their pocket and 28 games to play, this qualifies as a bad beat. The Grizzlies ended the season on a 3-25 slide to finish five games below their win total.
9. 2004-05 Houston Rockets (Over 50.5)
There is a similarity for the final two teams on this list, but Houston gets the nod over Phoenix because of the way this went down. Houston lost its 31st game with just seven left to play. Under bettors needed just one more loss to get a win, but that never came. The Rockets closed the season on a 7-0 winning streak that put them Over by a half-game. The reason they rank ahead of Phoenix is due to one of their seven victories. Houston beat Phoenix 98-97 after Steve Nash missed a 16-footer and Steven Hunter whiffed on a put-back dunk on that missed shot. C’mon, man!
10. 1993-94 Phoenix Suns (Over 55.5)
Same deal as Houston. The Suns suffered their 26th loss with seven games remaining. Under bettors needed a single loss before the campaign ended, but it never came as Phoenix ended the season on a seven-game winning streak. No wacky wins for the Suns, but a solid 50-win team getting it done at the end of the season.
Honorable Mention: 2019-20 Warriors, Grizzlies and Thunder
Imagine betting a win total and having the team clinch the decision on that win total, only to receive a refund instead of a winning ticket. That is what happened at most shops in last season’s pandemic-shortened season. It does not go down as a loss, but these three teams had clinched decisions on their win totals well before the season ended. But because the minimum number of games was not played, it goes down as a scratch. Rough.