Today’s Sportstat: May 23, 2019
Does sweeping an NBA conference final equal an NBA title?
While the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors will determine the Eastern Conference champs by playing at least a six-game series (and maybe a seven-game series), the Golden State Warriors will have 10 days of rest before their first game in the NBA Finals because they swept the Portland Trailblazers in four games in the Western Conference Finals.
One benefit for the Warriors, as mentioned above, is a full 10 days rest before Game One of the NBA Finals. That will help Golden State as they hope that extended period will allow Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to get healthy and be able to play in the title series. But with their four-game sweep in the conference finals, the obvious questions is… historically speaking, is sweeping a conference finals series a good omen for the finals?
First, the Warriors became the 18th team in NBA history to sweep a conference finals series 4-0 since the format was changed to a best-of-seven series in 1958. Of the previous 17 times when a team won a conference series 4-0, they went on to win the NBA Finals nine times (and lost in the NBA Finals eight times). Of the 18 times that a team has swept an opponent in the conference finals, 13 times it happened in the Western Conference, five times in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It’s interesting to note that of the 17 times that a team advanced to the NBA Finals after a four-game sweep in the conference finals, not once has that team also swept their opponent in four games straight in the NBA Finals. In 1989, however, the Los Angeles Lakers won the Western Conference Finals in a four-game sweep of Phoenix and then were the victims of a sweep in four games by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.
Here’s a quick look at the nine teams that won an NBA championship after a four-game sweep in the conference finals, and the eight teams that after a four-game sweep in the conference finals then lost the next series in the NBA Finals.
Won NBA title after a four-game sweep in the conference finals: 1977-Portland, 1982-L.A. Lakers, 1986-Boston, 1987-L.A. Lakers, 1991-Chicago, 1996-Chicago, 1999-San Antonio, 2001-L.A. Lakers, 2017-Golden State.
Lost in the NBA Finals after a four-game sweep in the conference finals: 1968-L.A. Lakers, 1970-L.A. Lakers, 1974-L.A. Lakers, 1989-L.A. Lakers, 1998-Utah, 2003-N.J. Nets, 2013-San Antonio, 2015-Cleveland.
Will the 2019 Golden State Warriors repeat what they did in 2017 with an NBA Finals series win after sweeping in the conference finals? Could they become the first team to win an NBA title by sweeping their opponents in the conference finals and the NBA Finals?
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