Sweeps in the conference finals aren’t common, but they do happen from time to time. Over the last 25 years we’ve had seven of them, including two by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. This year, with both the Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron James) and the Golden State Warriors (with Stephen Curry), we might have the first double conference finals sweep in NBA playoff history.
Spurs Over Grizzlies in 2013
This isn’t your regular sweep. The Spurs didn’t destroy the Griz in this series, despite the 4-0 outcome. The first game did go a little bit untroubled, winning by 22 points. However, San Antonio needed two overtime wins and a 93-86 win in the clincher to do with Memphis. The Spurs went on to lose in the NBA finals to the Miami Heat.
Nets Over Pistons in 2003
Yes, that far back. It wasn’t a pretty series, and the East wasn’t a pretty place to be back then. The Nets won the first two in Detroit by two points in both games before a more comfortable finish at home against the stunned Pistons, winning by 12 points in game 3 and 20 points in game 4. They went on to lose against the Spurs in the finals.
Lakers Over Spurs in 2001
One of the most dominant playoff runs in NBA history was made by the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, with Kobe Bryant becoming one of the best in the league and Shaquille O’Neal at his absolute best. After sweeping through the first two rounds, the Lakers crushed the Spurs, beating them by 14 points in game 1 (on the road), 39 points in game 3 and 29 points in game 4. They went on to win the NBA championship, beating the Sixers in five games.
Spurs Over Blazers in 1999
On their way to their first NBA title, the San Antonio Spurs lost just one game on the Western side of the bracket. In the conference finals they had no problem with the Portland Trail Blazers, beating them by 4 points in game 1, by one point in game 2 (The Memorial Day Miracle: Sean Elliott makes the game-winning 3-pointer with 9 seconds left) and then did more comfortable in Portland, winning by 22 and 14 points.
Jazz Over Lakers in 1998
Shaquille O’Neal and a young Kobe Bryant were no match for Karl Malone, John Stockton and the rest of the Jazz, en route to a second consecutive NBA finals meeting and loss against the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. The Jazz opened with a 35-point win, followed by wins in margins of 4 points, 11 points and 4 to clinch the series.
Bulls Over Magic in 1996
The complete revenge for Michael Jordan (a recurring theme for him) over the Orlando Magic in his first full season back from retirement. The closest we had in this series were two five-point wins. The other two? By 38 points and by 19, as the Bulls, the 72-10 Chicago Bulls, went on to win the NBA title against the Seattle Supersonics.
Bulls Over Pistons in 1991
Michael Jordan got his first revenge against the team that stood in his way of the NBA finals for a few years, the Detroit, too proud to shake hands with the winning team after the sweep, walking off the court. The Bulls won the last game by 21 points after a rather close series. Chicago went on to win the first of six NBA titles in eight seasons, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.