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The 1981 NBA Playoffs was the postseason tournament follow National Basketball Association's 1980–81 season. The tournament concluded with the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics winning their 14th overall championship by defeating the Western Conference champion Houston Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. Boston's Cedric Maxwell was awarded NBA Finals MVP.

The playoffs were notable for being the only time, to date, a team with a losing record ever advanced as far as the NBA Finals, as the Rockets won their very first Western Conference championship despite finishing with a record of 40-42 (the other Western Conference Finalist, the Kansas City Kings, also had a 40-42 record).

The Indiana Pacers became the fourth and final former American Basketball Association team to make their postseason debut, though two straight losses to the Philadelphia 76ers put a quick end to the Pacers' first playoff run.

This was the last year, to date, in which an NBA playoff game was played during the month of March.


  First Round Conference Semifinals Conference Finals NBA Finals
  1  Phoenix 3  
    5  Kansas City 4  
4  Portland 1
5  Kansas City 2  
  5  Kansas City 1  
Western Conference
  6  Houston 4  
3  Los Angeles 1  
6  Houston 2  
  6  Houston 4
    2  San Antonio 3  
  W6  Houston 2
  E1  Boston 4
  1  Boston 4
    5  Chicago 0  
4  New York 0
5  Chicago 2  
  1  Boston 4
Eastern Conference
  3  Philadelphia 3  
3  Philadelphia 2  
6  Indiana 0  
  3  Philadelphia 4
    2  Milwaukee 3  

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