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NBA Finals History: 9 occasions when teams swept the NBA Finals

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four
Kaushik Turlapaty
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Also read: 10 Best NBA Finals series of All Time

No team would like getting swept in the NBA Finals. Coming to the finals after working so hard over the course of the long season, getting swept in the playoffs is considered a bad thing on a player's resume. While it is very rare that teams get swept in the Finals, there have been instances in the NBA when the teams got swept in the Finals.

Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers played his heart out to carry the team to the Finals in 2001. The 76ers team did not have any superstars besides AI but Allen Iverson still found a way to avoid the sweep as he scored 48 points in the game 1 of the Finals against Shaq, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers by playing the game of his life and securing the win.

They beat one of the greatest teams we have ever seen in the history of the NBA to avoid the sweep. That Lakers team won three titles in a row, they 3-peated and they were undefeated in the playoffs that year. Yet, he did not want to get swept and found a way to secure a win.

In the NBA Finals history, some really good teams have been swept in the past by the so-called underdogs. Here are the 9 teams that got swept in the NBA Finals.

#1 1958-59 Boston Celtics def. Minneapolis Lakers

Bill Russell For The Block
#6 Bill Russell

The Eastern Division Champions Boston Celtics who finished first in the division (52-20) took on the Western Division Champions Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA Finals, 1959. It was the first title of what would be 8-straight titles.

It was also the first time that a team swept the opponent in the finals. With Bob Cousy as their point guard, the Celtics dominated the Lakers and crushed them to win the series 4-0. The Celtics team had three players from the team in the All-NBA First Team that year in the form of Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and Bill Sharman.

This win justified the words of the coach Red Auerbach, who called this team, the greatest team ever assembled, just a few months before the NBA Finals.

#2 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks def. Baltimore Bullets

Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Bullets
Milwaukee Bucks v Washington Bullets

The Midwest Division Champions Milwaukee Bucks faced the Central Division Champs Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals, 1971. It was Oscar Robertson's first season playing with the Bucks and he won his first NBA title.

Bucks had the best record in the NBA with 66-16 in the regular season and only lost two games in the playoffs and swept the Bullets.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who at that time was known as Lew Alcindor won the regular season MVP for leading the Bucks to first seed averaging 31.7 points, 16 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

#3 1974-75 Golden State Warriors def. Washington Bullets

Golden State Warriors vs Washington Bullets, 1975 NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors vs Washington Bullets, 1975 NBA Finals

The Golden State Warriors entered the Finals after finishing first in the Western Conference of the regular season,1974-75. Washington Bullets who were tied with the Celtics for the best record in the league with 60-22 were playing under KC Jones' coaching.

While everyone expected Bullets' Center Elvin Hayes and 5-time NBA All-Star Wes Unseld to dominate, it was Rick Barry whose heroics led the Warriors to their third NBA Championship.

Rick Barry was rightly adjudged the finals MVP as Warriors swept the Bullets. This was Bullets' second Finals sweep and the first after moving to Washington from Baltimore.

#4 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers def. Los Angeles Lakers

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers
Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers

The Eastern Conference Champions Philadelphia 76ers who finished the regular season 65-17 with the best record in the league dropped only one game in the entire playoffs and went on to sweep the Western Conference Champions Los Angeles Lakers.

Moses Malone who won the Regular season MVP continued his performances in the Finals and won the Finals MVP as well. Julius Erving and Moses Malone's offense was too much to handle for LA Lakers.

This was a rematch as that previous year, LA Lakers won the Finals against the 76ers 4-2.

#5 1988-89 Detroit Pistons def. Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons, 1989 NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons, 1989 NBA Finals

The Detroit Pistons had a great regular season as they made the playoffs finishing at the top of the Eastern Division having won 63 games in the regular season. They were pitted against Los Angeles Lakers who were the Western Conference Champions.

The Lakers went past every team sweeping them in the playoffs and then got swept in an absolutely stunning series in the Finals. Guards Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas came up big in the Finals and Joe Dumars deservingly won the Finals MVP award.

Magic Johnson only played in the first game of the Finals because of an injured thigh and the Lakers never looked comfortable without their star PG.

#6 1994-95 Houston Rockets def. Orlando Magic

1995 NBA Finals - Game Four: Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls
1995 NBA Finals - Game Four: Orlando Magic v Chicago Bulls

The defending champions Houston Rockets finished 6th in the Western Conference and reached the finals after battling hard in the playoffs against quality teams, Phoenix and San Antonio.

Shaquille O'Neal who led the league in scoring that season averaged 25.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game but it was not sufficient to stop Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets as they successfully defended their Championship sweeping Orlando.

This was the first time in the NBA history that a team defended their championship with a sweep.

#7 2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers def. New Jersey Nets

Los Angeles Lakers vs New Jersey Nets, 2002 NBA Finals
Los Angeles Lakers vs New Jersey Nets, 2002 NBA Finals

The New Jersey Nets with Byron Scott as their head coach finished first in the Eastern Conference. In the finals, it was all Shaq as he set a record, scoring 145 points in a 4-game series.

This brought LA its third straight title and Shaq also won his third straight Finals MVP. Kobe Bryant also went off scoring 26.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.

New Jersey could never get things going and it was expected by many that it would result in a sweep even before the Finals started.

#8 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs def. Cleveland Cavaliers

Tony Parker (C) of the San Antonio Spurs...
Tony Parker (C) of the San Antonio Spurs

The Eastern Conference Champions Cleveland Cavaliers led by young LeBron James were pitted against the Western Conference Champs San Antonio Spurs. Tony Parker dismantled the Cavaliers' defense all series and averaged close to 25 points on a 57 percent shooting from the field in the finals.

Tim Duncan who exploded all throughout the playoffs averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists came up big again in the finals.

While LeBron James exploded, the San Antonio Spurs' firepower was too much to handle for Cavaliers as this series ended in a sweep.

#9 2017-18 Golden State Warriors def. Cleveland Cavaliers

2018 NBA Finals - Game Four
2018 NBA Champs, Golden State Warriors

Also read: Reviewing LeBron James' Six NBA Finals Losses

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers played their fourth consecutive Finals in 2018. Kevin Durant who was the Finals MVP in 2017 once again dominated the Cavaliers and no one could stop him.

While the first game was a close one with Golden State Warriors winning in overtime, the other games saw the Warriors dominate completely and annihilate Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant was adjudged the Finals MVP for the second straight season and the Warriors swept Cavaliers winning their third title in four years with LeBron James headed into an uncertain off-season after the sweep.


Which was the most dominating series sweep ever in the NBA Finals as per you? Tell us in the comments below!

Edited by Raunak J
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