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The Nine Instances Of A Sweep In The NBA Finals

Jun 12, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday (4) and forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates after their win against the Dallas Mavericks in game three of the 2024 NBA Finals at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This year marks the 78th edition of the NBA Finals (including the first three years when it was known as the BAA). The finals have always been contested in a best-of-seven format. As of now, there have been nine sweeps.

The Boston Celtics will look to extend that number into the double-digits. With their 106-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, they are now up 3-0 in the series. Boston will attempt to finish off the sweep on Friday night.

Here are the nine instances of a sweep in the NBA Finals, starting with the most recent.

The Nine Instances Of A Sweep In The NBA Finals

2018 – Golden State Warriors Over Cleveland Cavaliers

It was in the 2016 NBA Finals where the Cavaliers defeated a Warriors team that won a regular season record 73 games. That offseason, the Warriors added Kevin Durant and became nearly unbeatable. In 2017, Golden State defeated Cleveland in the NBA Finals in five games. The following season, it took them one game fewer.

2007 – San Antonio Spurs Over Cleveland Cavaliers

In what was LeBron James’ first NBA Finals at 23 years old, the Cavaliers were outclassed and outmatched. The Spurs were led by a trio of future Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. San Antonio held Cleveland to just 80.5 points per contest over the four-game sweep.

2002 – Los Angeles Lakers Over New Jersey Nets

This was around the peak time when the Western Conference was clearly superior to the Eastern Conference.  Coached by the legendary Phil Jackson, the Lakers had one of the most unstoppable duos in Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. O’Neal was particularly dominant averaging 36.3 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in the series.

1995 – Houston Rockets Over Orlando Magic

This series maybe shouldn’t have been a sweep. Nick Anderson missed four-straight free throws at the end of Game 1 with Orlando nursing a three-point lead. Kenny Smith hit a three to send it to overtime, and the Rockets prevailed. Hakeem Olajuwon outplayed a 23-year-old Shaquille O’Neal, and Houston also went on to win the following three games.

1989 – Detroit Pistons Over Los Angeles Lakers

The Pistons avenged their seven-game loss to the Lakers in the 1988 NBA Finals by sweeping them the following year. Joe Dumars was named Finals MVP, and Detroit swept a team in Los Angeles that entered the finals without a playoff loss. The Pistons also won the 1990 NBA Finals over the Portland Trail Blazers.

1983 – Philadelphia 76ers Over Los Angeles Lakers

Here is another instance of a team able to avenge previously losing in the finals to the Lakers. Los Angeles beat the 76ers in the NBA Finals in both 1980 and 1982. After the second finals loss, Philadelphia acquired center Moses Malone. The move paid huge dividends as Malone was both the regular season and Finals MVP.

1975 – Golden State Warriors Over Washington Bullets

This was arguably the most surprising of the sweeps as Washington had 12 more wins in the regular season than Golden State. It was a relatively close series despite the sweep since the Warriors only outscored the Bullets by 16 points over the four games. Hall of Famer Rick Barry was named the Finals MVP.

1971 – Milwaukee Bucks Over Washington Bullets

Before he was known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lew Alcindor won his first of six championships in 1971. This was also Oscar Robertson’s one career championship victory. It was just Milwaukee’s third year of existence in the NBA, and they would have to wait another five decades before they won again in 2021.

1959 – Boston Celtics Over Minneapolis Lakers

This was the first of eight consecutive seasons where the Celtics were crowned NBA champions. Somehow, the Lakers were able to reach the finals despite a 33-49 record in the regular season. Tom Heinsohn, Frank Ramsey, and Bill Sharman all averaged at least 22.5 points in the series, and Bill Russell averaged an absurd 29.5 rebounds.


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