The 2009 NBA Playoffs was the postseason tournament of the National Basketball Association's 2008–09 season. The tournament concluded with the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic 4 games to 1 in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant was named NBA Finals MVP.
The Boston Celtics lost a best-of-7 series after leading 3–2 for the first time to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Before that, their first round series with the Chicago Bulls set an NBA Playoff record for the most overtime games (4) and periods (7) played.
The Houston Rockets won a first round series for the first time since 1997. They pushed the eventual champion Lakers to a Game 7 before losing. The Atlanta Hawks won a first round series for the first time since 1999, but were swept by the Cavs after enduring a tough 7-game series with the Miami Heat, who made the playoffs for the fifth time in 6 years. The Denver Nuggets won a playoff series for the first time since 1994, eventually reaching their first conference final since 1985.
As for the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, they failed to advance past the first round for the first time since 2000. The Pistons were swept by the Cavs, while the Spurs lost to the Dallas Mavericks 4-1.
The Portland Trail Blazers made the playoffs for the first time since 2003, but for the fourth straight time, they were eliminated in the first round, courtesy of H in 6 games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers became only the second team in NBA History (after the Miami Heat) to go 8-0 through the first two rounds by sweeping the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks (they would duplicate this feat in 2016, against the same two teams). However, they fell in 6 games to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The 3 division winners and 5 other teams with the most wins from each conference qualify for the playoffs. The seedings are based on each team's record; however, a division winner is guaranteed to be ranked at least 4th, regardless of record. All series are in a best-of-7 format with the Games 1–2, 5 and 7 on the home court of the team with the better record, regardless of their seed. For the NBA Finals, the team with the better record plays Games 1–2 and 6–7 at home.
The tiebreakers that determine seedings are:
- Division leader wins tie from team not leading a division
- Head-to-head record
- Division record (if the teams are in the same division)
- Conference record
- Record vs. playoff teams, own conference
- Record vs. playoff teams, other conference
- Point differential, all games
If there are more than 2 teams tied, the team that wins the tiebreaker gets the highest seed, while the other teams are "re-broken" from the first step until all ties are resolved. Since the three division winners are guaranteed a spot in the top 4, ties to determine the division winners must be broken before any other ties.
— = not applicablea The regular season series was tied 2–2.
b Tie between division leaders was broken first.
Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams with home court advantage are shown in italics.All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC−4)
This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams, with each team winning one series apiece.
The Cavaliers opened the series with a rout on Game 1, as LeBron James scored 38 points and the Cavaliers won by 18 points. In Game 2, the Cavaliers were leading by 27 points after the third quarter before the Pistons started a comeback in the fourth quarter. The Pistons managed to cut the Cavaliers' lead down to 7 points, but in the end the Cavaliers won the game by 12 points. Game 3 was a tight contest until an 18–2 run by the Cavaliers in the fourth quarter secured the victory for Cleveland. The Cavaliers swept the Pistons with a 21-point victory in Game 4, in which James scored 36 points while narrowly missing a triple-double for two straight games.
This was the fourth playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Celtics winning the first three meetings.
In Game 1, with the Bulls trailing by 1, rookie Derrick Rose hit 2 free throws with 9.6 seconds left. Celtics captain Paul Pierce had a chance to win the game with his own free throws from a Joakim Noah foul but missed the second, leading to overtime. In the overtime, with Rose fouling out, Tyrus Thomas scored six of the Bulls' eight points to put them up 105–103 with about 50 seconds left. Ray Allen, who had a poor shooting night, had a chance to tie the game and send it into a second overtime but he did not succeed. Even while the playoffs were continuing, many experts and analysts were calling it "the greatest playoff series ever".
Rose matched Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's playoff debut of 36 points to lead the Bulls into a Game 1 road victory. Rose also became the second player to have a 35-point, 10-assist game in their playoff debut in history, after Chris Paul did the feat in 2008; his 36 points was also the highest points scored by a Bull in a playoff game since Michael Jordan retired. The win also marked the Bulls' first postseason win against the Celtics in history.
In Game 2, Ben Gordon poured in 42 points, but lost the duel to Ray Allen. The Bulls were blown out in Game 3. At home in the end of regulation of Game 4, Gordon hit a big bank shot putting the Bulls up 95-93. The Bulls would go on to win in 2OT.
The Bulls held a double digit lead, and Boston came back behind Paul Pierce. Gordon hit a tough shot over Stephon Marbury. Gordon stopped, pivoted, pump-faked, shot, and made it off glass despite the Bulls offense appearing to go nowhere on that play. Pierce tied with his own jumper, the Game 5 foul happened, and Boston won.
Rondo had a flagrant 1 foul in the first quarter vs. Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls had to come down from 8 in the final 2 minutes, and did so behind John Salmons. Ray Allen scored 51 points, but the Bulls won in 3OT.
The Celtics finished the Bulls off with a 10-point victory.
This was the second playoff meeting between these two teams, with the 76ers winning the first meeting.
In Game 1, the Magic had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and Andre Iguodala scored a jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining to give the Sixers a road win. The Sixers almost managed another comeback in Game 2. The Magic led by 18 points midway through the third quarter before another late run by the Sixers brought the lead down to 5 points before the Magic finally won the game. The Sixers won Game 3 courtesy of another late shot; Thaddeus Young scored a layup with 2 seconds left to secure the win, despite a career playoff-high 36-point performance by Dwight Howard. The Magic secured a road win in Game 4 with their own late shot; Hedo Türkoğlu scored the game-winning three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to even the series.
In Game 5, Dwight Howard had 24 points and a career playoff-high 24 rebounds, leading the Magic to a victory. Game 5 was marked with an elbowing incident by Howard on Samuel Dalembert, which led to a one-game suspension for Howard. Rookie Courtney Lee also went down injured after taking an inadvertent elbow on the head from Howard. Despite losing two starters, Howard and Lee, the Magic won game 6, beating the Sixers on the road by 25 points to win the series.
This was the second playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Hawks winning the first meeting.
The Hawks opened the series with a 26-point win after leading by as much as 20 points at halftime. The Hawks also tied a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a playoff game. However, the Heat managed to rebound from the loss and won Game 2 on the road to tie the series. The Heat won Game 3 at home, almost in similar fashion as the Hawks' victory in Game 1. The Heat was already leading by 19 points at halftime and ended up winning by 29 points. In the next game, the Hawks bounced back and won a road game to even the series.
Game 5 was marked by several hard fouls and technical fouls. Dwyane Wade was fouled and sent tumbling down by Solomon Jones before a skirmish between Wade, Jones, Jamaal Magloire and Josh Smith started. All four players were given technical fouls in the incident. Wade was later called for a flagrant foul after he fouled Maurice Evans during a layup attempt. The flagrant foul was later rescinded by the officials after they reviewed the play. The Hawks finally won the game, despite losing starting center Al Horford due to injury in the second quarter. The Heat evened the series at 3–3 after winning Game 6. Wade scored 41 points to lead the Heat to a 26-point rout over the Hawks. The Hawks finally won the series after winning Game 7 at home, with 13 points difference. All seven games of the series were decided by at least 10 points, with an average margin of 19 points.
This was the first playoff meeting between the Hawks and the Cavaliers.
This was the second playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Magic winning the first meeting.
This was the first playoff meeting between the Cavaliers and the Magic.
In Game 1, LeBron James dominated with a 49-point performance, while Howard had 30. Although James had a potential game-winning three-point play, a furious rally and a game-winning three-pointer by Rashard Lewis allowed the Magic to escape with a victory in game 1. Much like Game 1, Game 2 had the Cavs with an 18-point lead by the second quarter, only for the Magic to rally back in the closing minutes. A jump shot by Hedo Türkoğlu gave the Magic a 2-point lead with 1 second left on the clock, but LeBron James hit a three-pointer to tie the series. In Game 3, the Magic dominated at home, leading to a 10-point victory behind Dwight Howard's 24 points. In Game 4, two clutch free throws by LeBron James sent the game into overtime. While James dominated with 44 (his third 40-point game of the playoffs), an off half-court shot allowed the Magic to escape again with a victory. Down 3–1, James' triple-double allowed his team to stave off elimination in Game 5. After a win in Game 6, the Magic received their second NBA Finals berth in franchise history.
This was the fifth playoff meeting between these two teams, with each team winning two series apiece.
This was the first playoff meeting between the Nuggets and the New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets franchise.
The Nuggets routed the Hornets in Game 1, led by hometown player Chauncey Billups's 36 points in his playoff debut for the Nuggets. He sank a career playoff-high 8 three-pointers and added 8 assists in the game. He continued his form in Game 2, scoring 31 points as the Nuggets took a 2–0 lead in the series. The Hornets bounced back with a victory in Game 3. Game 3 was marked with plenty of fouls, with a total of 58 personal fouls in the game, resulting in four players fouling out of the game, David West and Tyson Chandler for the Hornets, and Kenyon Martin and Nenê for the Nuggets. The referees also called three flagrant fouls from James Posey, Chandler and Billups. Hornets' head coach Byron Scott was also called for a technical foul after arguing on Posey's flagrant foul.
The Nuggets then pulled a 58-point win in Game 4. The margin tied the most lopsided victory in playoff history set 53 years ago by the Minneapolis Lakers. The Hornets recorded a playoff-low in points and also a playoff-high 26 turnovers, which led to 41 Nuggets' points. The Nuggets then recorded their first series win since 1994 after a victory in Game 5. Carmelo Anthony scored his career playoff-high with 34 points as the Nuggets cruised to another double-digit win. The average margin of victory in the Nuggets's four wins was 30.75 points.
This was the fourth playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Spurs winning two of the first three meetings.
This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Rockets winning the first two meetings.
This was the eighth playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Lakers winning four of the first seven meetings.
This was the second playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Mavericks winning the first two meetings.
This was the fifth playoff meeting between these two teams, with the Lakers winning the first four meetings.
This was the first playoff meeting between the Lakers and the Magic.