With the Hawks getting swept and the Rockets on the verge of losing 4-1, we are faced with the obvious question: is this the worst Conference Finals ever? Well…maybe. Certainly we are looking at one of the briefest. The Hawks are the first team to get swept in the Conference Finals since 2002-03, when the Nets swept the Pistons (helped in part by an ankle injury to Chauncey Billups). We’ve looked at the import of sweeps earlier in the playoffs, but how often do they happen during Conference Finals?
Let’s take a look at all the Conference Final of the sweeps since Magic/Bird Era and see what we learn:
-2014-15: Cavs over Hawks
–2002-03: Nets over Pistons (Nets lost in Finals)
-2000-01: Lakers over Spurs (Lakers won title)
-1998-99: Spurs over Trail Blazers (Spurs won title)
-1997-98: Jazz over Lakers (Jazz lost in Finals)
-1995-96: Bulls over Magic (Bulls won title)
-1990-91: Bulls over Pistons (Bulls won title)
-1988-89: Lakers over Suns (Lakers lost in Finals)
-1986-87: Lakers overs Sonics (Lakers won title)
-1985-86: Celtics over Bucks (Celtics won title)
-1981-82: Lakers over Spurs (Lakers won title)
Before the Cavs, we have had ten sweeps. In the 1980s and 1990s, one could expect a sweep about once every other year. By the 2000s, the sweep got rarer, with three sweeps in 15 years. A good indicator for the Cavs: of the ten previous sweeps, the winner went on to win the NBA title seven times.
Had the Warriors won the other night, we would’ve really had history. Since the NBA went to the seven-game series format in 1957-58, the Conference Finals have never ended in sweeps in both series. Even in the old five-game format, a double sweep happened only once (in 1956-57, Boston took Syracuse and the Hawks swept the Lakers).
What about the last time the Conference Finals went only nine games? The nine game Conference Finals is also quite rare. In the 1985-86, the Celts swept the Bucks on the way to a dream season. Out west, the Rockets shocked the Lakers 4-1 (clinching on a Ralph Sampson turn around at the buzzer). Before 1985-86, we saw nine games again in 1973-74 (Boston over New York, 4-1 and Bucks over Bulls 4-0). So, the 2014-15 Conference Finals aren’t exactly fun but they are unique. Let’s hope for a more competitive Finals.