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Four Game Sweeps in the NBA Playoffs

Posted by Andrew McKillop on May 10, 2011

Correction: Thank you to blog reader Dan who pointed out that the Lakers didn’t average a 38 point margin in their sweep of the Spurs in 2001 (instead 22.3).  The high number should have made me question the accuracy of my data entry.  Dan also pointed out that the Orlando Magic-Atlanta Hawks series sweep in 2010 had the greatest average point margin (25.3 points/per game).

The Dallas Mavericks sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers was the 59th 4-game series sweep in NBA playoff history.  It’s only the second time in Mavericks team history that they have pulled off a 4-game sweep.  However it was only the 12th time in NBA playoff history that a team with the worse of the seeds in the series pulled off the 4-game series sweep.  Check out the chart below breaking down all the 4-game sweeps in NBA playoff history.

Legend: Sd (Seed), Pts Mar (Points Margin per Game).

Year Round Sd Won Sd Lost Pts Mar
1959 Finals 1 Celtics 2 Lakers 10.3
1968 Div Finals 2 Lakers 3 Warriors 10.3
1969 Div Semi 3 Knicks 1 Bullets 9.5
1970 Div Finals 2 Lakers 1 Hawks 8.8
1971 Finals 1 Bucks 1 Bullets 12.3
1972 Conf Semi 1 Lakers 2 Bulls 10.0
1974 Conf Finals 1 Bucks 2 Bulls 14.3
1975 Finals 1 Warriors 2 Bullets 4.0
1977 Conf Finals 3 Blazers 1 Lakers 5.8
1978 Conf Semi 1 Sixers 5 Knicks 18.8
1980 Conf Semi 1 Celtics 4 Rockets 18.5
1981 Conf Semi 1 Celtics 5 Bulls 8.3
1982 Conf Semi 1 Lakers 5 Suns 12.8
1982 Conf Finals 1 Lakers 2 Spurs 8.8
1983 Conf Semi 2 Bucks 3 Celtics 11.8
1983 Finals 1 Sixers 1 Lakers 10.0
1983 Conf Semi 1 Sixers 5 Knicks 5.5
1985 Conf Semi 3 Sixers 2 Bucks 10.0
1986 Conf Finals 1 Celtics 2 Bucks 15.0
1987 Conf Finals 1 Lakers 7 Sonics 11.3
1989 Conf Semi 1 Lakers 4 Sonics 10.0
1989 Conf Finals 1 Lakers 3 Suns 5.5
1989 Finals 1 Pistons 1 Lakers 6.8
1989 Conf Semi 1 Pistons 5 Bucks 11.8
1991 Conf Finals 1 Bulls 3 Pistons 11.5
1993 Conf Semi 2 Bulls 3 Cavaliers 8.5
1995 Finals 6 Rockets 1 Magic 7.0
1996 Conf Finals 1 Bulls 2 Magic 16.8
1996 Conf Semi 1 Sonics 5 Rockets 11.8
1998 Conf Finals 1 Jazz 3 Lakers 13.5
1999 Conf Semi 8 Knicks 4 Hawks 10.0
1999 Conf Semi 2 Pacers 6 Sixers 5.3
1999 Conf Semi 1 Spurs 4 Lakers 8.0
1999 Conf Finals 1 Spurs 2 Blazers 10.3
2001 Conf Semi 2 Lakers 3 Kings 9.3
2001 Conf Finals 2 Lakers 1 Spurs 22.3
2002 Finals 3 Lakers 1 Nets 9.3
2003 Conf Semi 2 Nets 6 Celtics 10.0
2003 Conf Finals 2 Nets 1 Pistons 9.0
2004 First Round 2 Nets 7 Knicks 12.8
2004 First Round 1 Pacers 8 Celtics 16.8
2004 First Round 3 Spurs 6 Grizzlies 14.0
2005 First Round 1 Heat 8 Nets 12.8
2005 Conf Semi 1 Heat 5 Wizards 9.0
2005 First Round 1 Suns 8 Grizzlies 11.0
2006 First Round 4 Mavericks 5 Grizzlies 14.0
2007 First Round 5 Bulls 4 Heat 11.0
2007 First Round 2 Cavaliers 7 Wizards 8.8
2007 First Round 1 Pistons 8 Magic 9.0
2007 Finals 3 Spurs 2 Cavaliers 6.0
2008 First Round 1 Lakers 8 Nuggets 13.3
2009 First Round 1 Cavaliers 8 Pistons 15.5
2009 Conf Semi 1 Cavaliers 4 Hawks 18.0
2010 Conf Semi 1 Lakers 5 Jazz 7.3
2010 First Round 2 Magic 7 Bobcats 9.3
2010 Conf Semi 2 Magic 3 Hawks 25.3
2010 Conf Semi 3 Suns 7 Spurs 9.3
2011 First Round 3 Celtics 6 Knicks 8.5
2011 Conf Semi 3 Mavericks 2 Lakers 14.0



The Lakers have pulled off the 4-game sweep on 13 occasions, the most by any NBA team.

Team # of 4-Game Sweeps
Lakers 13
Celtics 5
Spurs 4
Bulls 4
Sixers 4
Bucks 3
Cavaliers 3
Pistons 3
Nets 3



The Lakers have also been swept in 4-game series on 7 occasions, also the most by any NBA team.

Team # of Times Swept in a 4-Game Series
Lakers 7
Hawks 4
Knicks 4
Magic 3
Grizzlies 3
Bulls 3
Pistons 3
Bucks 3
Bullets 3
Spurs 3
Celtics 3



Some more notes:

The 1989 Los Angeles Lakers, and 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers are the only teams to have pulled off a 4-game sweep and be swept in a 4-game series in the same playoff year.

On average the team that pulls off a 4-game series sweep, has an 11.4 points per game advantage over their opponent.

Nine of the last twenty (45%) NBA champions pulled off a 4-game series sweep at some point(s) during their playoff run.

When applicable (exception with the Finals) a team that pulls off a 4-game sweep in the NBA playoffs has a 56% chance of winning their next series.  However when the team coming off a 4-game sweep meets a team coming off of a series with 6 or more games, the above mentioned winning percentage bumps up to 70%.  A substantial advantage for the team with more rest.  This is important to keep in mind as the Mavericks future opponent in the Conference Finals is headed for at least a 6-game series.


Reference: Basketball-Reference

5 Responses to “Four Game Sweeps in the NBA Playoffs”

  1. Cort said

    Good stuff

  2. Dan said

    Just found your site and I appreciate your work. I was surprised to see the Lakers’ 38.0-point average margin of victory over the Spurs in the 2001 Western Conference semifinals. I thought I remembered seeing that the Magic’s sweep of the Hawks in 2010 was the biggest, so I checked (http://www.basketball-reference.com/playoffs/NBA_2001.html) and the average margin in the Lakers-Spurs was 22.25. A couple of blowouts, but not as high as your chart. Thanks again for your hard work.

    • Andrew McKillop said

      Thanks Dan for the correction. I’m going to double check all matchups. I don’t know what happened there. Maybe I tagged a game from another series, or something. I’m always nervous with point margins because there is a lot of data entry, and sometimes typos occur. I think there important though, so I try to put them into my research when applicable.

  3. Jay said

    Thanks for putting this list together. I was wondering what were the worst sweeps in NBA history after the Thunder just eliminated the Mavericks. I remember the Magic-Hawks series being the worst and the Lakers-Spurs WCF series the second worst.

    Out of all these blowouts, by far the worst to me was the Lakers’ demolition of the Spurs in 2001, en route to a record 15-1 postseason. Though it wasn’t an NBA Finals, it may have well been for all intents and purposes given how weak the East was.

    • Andrew McKillop said

      From what I heard, most people would consider the 2001 Lakers blowout of the Spurs, one of the greatest four-game sweeps.

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