Every single season, all 30 teams of the NBA have one aim, to reach the Finals and get a shot at the Larry O’Brien trophy. The worst thing for an NBA team would be to reach the finals and then lose four games in a row to lose the series, commonly known as a sweep.
Has any team swept the NBA Finals? Since the formation of the NBA, nine teams have swept their opposition in the NBA finals, the most recent of course being the Golden State Warriors sweeping the Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.
The very first sweep in an NBA finals was all the way back in 1959. Coming off the back of losing in the 1958 finals, the Boston Celtics began an incredible dynasty by beating the Minneapolis Lakers in four games. This sweep began the Celtics incredible dynasty, with Boston winning the next eight titles after this sweep.
It was also the first time that the Celtics and Lakers met in the finals, the beginning of one of the NBAs most legendary rivalries. 1971 was the next finals sweep with the Milwaukee Bucks sweeping the Baltimore Bullets to claim the teams first ever title. The series was so uneven that none of the four games ended with a score closer than eight points. Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson proved to be too much for the Bullets.
They were again on the end of another sweep four years later in the 1975 NBA FInals, even after moving to Washington. The Golden State Warriors claimed their first title against the Bullets, despite Washington being the heavy favourite heading into the series, with the Bullets having won 12 more games than the Warriors in the regular season.
Despite all the incredible success of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, they were also swept twice in the 1980s. The first occurred a year after the Lakers had beaten the Sixers in the finals. Philadelphia certainly got their revenge with the Sixers sweeping the Lakers in 1983 despite them having Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as well as three other hall of famers.
Six years later, the Lakers were back in the 1989 NBA Finals having won three titles since being swept by the Sixers. They faced the Bad Boy Pistons who had pushed them to seven games in the prior season’s finals. The Pistons were just too much for the injury riddled Lakers and were just able to out physical their opposition with Joe Dumars winning finals MVP.
The finals can often come too soon for some NBA superstars and this was certainly the case for Shaquille O’Neal in 1995. Taking advantage of Michael Jordan’s sudden return from his baseball sabbatical, Shaq’s Magic pushed the GOAT aside to face off against the reigning NBA champion Houston Rockets. Led by Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem got the better of Shaq and the Magic’s lack of help showed as the Rockets swept the Magic with Nick Anderson missing 4 free throws as the Magic blew game 1.
Pretty much any team was going to struggle against the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s and unfortunately for the Nets it was them who faced the Lakers in the 2002 finals. After being pushed really close by the Kings in the Western Conference finals, the Lakers won four straight to easily win the finals despite a close game one and three.
You have to appreciate the incredible job that young Lebron did in dragging his Cleveland Cavaliers team to the 2007 NBA Finals. His team really lacked depth of talent beyond Lebron and yet King James reached his first finals. However, James ran into a brick wall in the case of Prime Tim Duncan and the Spurs dynasty.
Led by Duncan, with Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in tow, the Spurs were far too powerful for the Cavaliers and they won the series in four games, which did include two very close games back in Cleveland. The Cavs showed out in front of their home fans losing both contests by only one basket.
Eleven years later, Lebron was back in the finals once again with Cleveland. By this point, he already had won two titles with Miami before returning to Cleveland and winning a title for his hometown. Lebron looked to win another for Cleveland as he went to his eight straight finals.
However, Lebron came up against one of the most talented teams in NBA history. This was the 2018 Warriors, truly at their best with an offence of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson anchored by the defence of Draymond Green. This proved to be too much for Lebron who had very little help throughout the season after Kyrie Irving had left the team. Game 1 will always be remembered as the JR Smith game. Lebron had put in maybe the best single performance ever seen in the NBA. Stacking up more than 50 points, only for JR Smith to lose track of time and score on a vital play at the end of the 4th. Allowing the Warriors to sneak into Overtime. Like Nick Anderson at the free throw line in 1995, it could have all been so different.
Lebron and the Cavaliers were swept in convincing fashion, despite James averaging 34 points per game.
List of NBA Finals Sweeps
|NBA Finals Sweeps|
|1959||Minneapolis Lakers||Boston Celtics|
|1971||Milwaukee Bucks||Baltimore Bullets|
|1975||Golden State Warriors||Washington Bullets|
|1983||Philadelphia 76ers||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1989||Detroit Pistons||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1995||Houston Rockets||Orlando Magic|
|2002||Los Angeles Lakers||New Jersey Nets|
|2007||San Antonio Spurs||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2018||Golden State Warriors||Cleveland Cavaliers|
Has any team gone 16-0 in the NBA playoffs?
There have been some incredible teams across the history of the NBA, but no team has ever gone 16-0 in the playoffs. There have been a few teams who have gone close with two teams only losing one game in the run to the NBA title.
The first was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq and Kobe were both playing excellently and in their prime. They began the playoffs by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers with three double digit wins against future hall of famers Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis. They followed this up with a very simple 4-0 series win against the Kings.
In the conference finals, the Lakers took care of the San Antonio Spurs easily, despite the Spurs finishing with a better regular season record than the Lakers. The team’s only loss was an incredible individual performance from Allen Iverson in game one of the finals with the Sixers winning in overtime before losing four straight to the Lakers.
The 2017 Warriors had a very similar run to the finals. They dominated the western conference with three straight sweeps, winning 10 of the 12 games by more than ten points. It took a monster effort from Lebron James in game four of the finals to prevent the Warriors from going 16-0, with this team finishing with a playoff record of 16-1.