Lakers' playoff futility vs. Nuggets recalls other streaks ESPN logo
Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Los Angeles Lakers just can't beat the Denver Nuggets.

Despite being up by as much as 20 points, the Lakers fell to the Nuggets 101-99 on Monday night to trail 2-0 in their first-round Western Conference playoff series. After LeBron James missed a 3-pointer, Jamal Murray stormed down the court and hit a 15-foot game winner over Anthony Davis. Though the Lakers will be heading back home for Game 3, the loss is just another tally in their bleak ledger of failure against the Nuggets.

In fact, the Lakers are on a six-game playoff losing streak against Nikola Jokic & Co. -- 10 games if you count the regular season. Los Angeles is fighting an uphill battle in the playoffs anyway, but with a Nugget-shaped roadblock in its way, things are looking dire.

Surprisingly, this isn't even close to the longest playoff losing streak against a single team in the past 20 years. Sometimes, a team just has another squad's number -- and, as you'll see, the former team generally involves LeBron.

Cleveland Cavaliers over Atlanta Hawks (12 games, 2009-16)

The 2008-09 Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. LeBron James then left for the Miami Heat, marking the end of that particular nightmare for Atlanta.

Until he came back.

James picked up where he left off, sweeping the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals in the 2014-15 season. He'd do it again in the 2015-16 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Cavaliers haven't played the Hawks in the playoffs since then, meaning this streak is technically still ongoing.

Cleveland Cavaliers over Detroit Pistons (12 games, 2007-16)

This one, at least, didn't start with a sweep. The 2006-07 Pistons had an impressive lineup, with Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber making for a formidable starting five. They even finished first in the Central division, two games ahead of the Cavaliers, and took a 2-0 lead against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals. That was all they'd get, unfortunately, as LeBron took over. James dropped 125 points in the last four games of the series, all Cavaliers wins.

A diminished Pistons team met the Cavaliers again in 2008-09, only to be swept, with the Cavaliers winning all four games by double digits. They'd face off one more time in 2015-16 when LeBron returned to Cleveland, and though the margins were smaller, the result was the same. This streak, like the one against the Hawks, is ongoing.

Cleveland Cavaliers over Toronto Raptors (10 games, 2016-18)

Are we starting to see a pattern here? This time, at least, the pain didn't begin during LeBron's first stint with the Cavaliers. The streak began during the 2015-16 Eastern Conference finals. After the Raptors tied things up 2-2 with wins at home, the Cavaliers erupted, winning Games 5 and 6 by a combined total of 64 points. That momentum continued in 2016-17, with James averaging 35 points per game on his way to another easy sweep. Fortunately for Toronto, it was able to hold James to ... 34 points per game in their rematch in 2017-18 -- also a sweep. No wonder people started calling the place "LeBronto."

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise at this point, but the streak is still ongoing.

San Antonio Spurs over Memphis Grizzlies (10 games, 2013-17)

Finally, proof that you can have a playoff winning streak without the King's involvement. This particular drubbing started with a sweep in the 2012-13 postseason, with the Grizzlies competitive in only Games 2 and 4. Things got worse for Memphis the next time the teams met in 2015-16, with Game 1 ending up as a 106-74 blowout that set the tone for yet another sweep. The Grizzlies ended up finally breaking the streak in Game 3 of their 2016-17 Western Conference first-round series. They even won Game 4 to even things up at two apiece. That'd be cold comfort, however, as the Spurs easily took care of business in Games 5 and 6.

Golden State Warriors over Portland Trail Blazers (10 games, 2016-19)

This was a bad time for anyone not named LeBron to run into the Warriors in the playoffs. The 73-9 team beat Portland in the 2015-16 Western Conference semifinals, securing the last two games in the series for a 4-1 mark. The Warriors would continue their dominance in 2016-17, where they swept the Trail Blazers 4-0 in the first round. To be entirely fair, though, that year they lost exactly one game during their entire epic playoff run. Golden State would sweep Portland again in 2018-19, although it did need overtime to do so in Game 4. The two teams haven't met since, meaning this is yet another ongoing streak.

Data from ESPN's Stats & Information group was used in this story.

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