The Closest Four-Game Sweeps

During the NBA offseason, we have the opportunity to dive into some of the game’s more outrageous mysteries.

Since 2003, the NBA playoffs have had best-of-7 series for each round of the playoffs. Before the 2002-03 season, the first round was best-of-5.

However, as you may know, money is something NBA owners are big fans of. And if they could make MORE money by potentially adding two additional games to a series, why wouldn’t they?

So now, a team has to win four games to win a series. If that team wins four games in a row, it’s called a sweep.

We also have fun variants: If Team A wins three games, but Team B wins Game 4, and then Team A wins game five, it’s called a “gentleman’s sweep.”

If Team B wins Game 1, then proceeds to lose the next four games, the No Dunks crew gave us the fun “d-bag sweep” terminology.

For the purposes of this issue, however, we’re only looking at those four-game sweeps. Specifically, which four-game sweep was the closest?

Thanks to some handy math and great stat keeping by Elias Sports Bureau, there’s actually a tie for this answer: the 1975 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Washington Bullets and the 2017 Eastern Conference first-round matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.

1975 NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors and Washington Bullets

Let’s look into the older series first. These Finals had a very odd home/away setup; the Warriors played Games 1 and 4 on the road but headed home for Games 2 and 3.

Golden State was led by NBA legends Rick Barry (of underhanded free throw shooting fame) and Jamaal Wilkes, but they had some fantastic alliteration on their roster, too. Derrek Dickey, Butch Beard, and Bill Bridges all contributed to the Finals victory.

Not to be deterred, the Wizards threw out Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin “The Bionic Man” Hayes.

The Wizards also had Truck Robinson, who, while 6’7″, only weighed 225 pounds. I wasn’t picturing a two-ton tractor-trailer out here, but I would expect someone named “Truck” to be flirting with 300 pounds, at least.

In any case, the Warriors won Game 3 by eight points, and that was the largest margin of victory all series long. Game 1 was a six-point affair, while both Game 2 and the decisive Game 4 were decided by a single point.


2017 First Round: Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers

Five years ago, we saw another team pull off the same feat: the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Indiana Pacers in 2017.

This series was less exciting because it involved the No. 2 and No. 7 seeds, and it was, you know, for the first round, not for an NBA championship.

Cleveland would, in fact, make the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors. And to clarify, that Warriors team had a different roster than the one from 1975. The passage of time and deterioration of skills is no joke.

This series could very well also not have been close or even a sweep. In Game 3, the Pacers took a 26-point lead, only for the Cavs to roar back (or…walk back? I don’t really know what Cavaliers do) and steal a 119-114 victory.

Game 1 was a 109-108 win for the Cavs, which ended with Indiana’s CJ Miles missing a game-winning shot and his teammate Paul George publicly saying, “I gotta get the last shot” in those situations.

Love seeing that kind of support. The Cavs won Game 2 by six points and Game 4 by five points.

Just like that, both series were four-game sweeps decided by a total of only 16 points.

I hope this was an entertaining read about sweeps. At the very least, I hope it inspired you to do a little sweeping around the house. It sure has for me. Those dust mites don’t stand a chance!