In case you haven’t been paying attention, the 2017 NBA Playoffs have been quite a breeze for the two teams that faced off in last years NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers, who finished with the second best record in the Eastern Conference, have won all 8 of their playoff games so far, having swept the Pacers in the first round and doing the same to the Raptors in the second round.
Even thought they swept each series, the tone of each series was different. In the first round against the Pacers the Cavaliers won all four games by a combined 16 points, which was tied for the smallest margin of victory in a four-game sweep in NBA history.
James and the Cavaliers also struggled defensively, becoming the first team in 20 seasons to allow 100 points in every game of a four-game sweep.
Smallest Margin of Victory in Four-Game Sweep – NBA Postseason History
2017 Cavaliers 16 1st Round vs Pacers
1975 Warriors 16 NBA Finals vs Bullets
1999 Pacers 21 Semis vs 76ers
1989 Lakers 22 Finals vs Suns
1983 76ers 22 Semis vs Knicks
Their second round sweep of the Raptors was a bit of a different story as they won three of their games by double-digits. LeBron James dominated, becoming just the 4th player to score 30 points or more in every game of a four-game sweep. His 36 PPG was his highest average for a four-game sweep in his career.
Under LeBron James the Cavaliers have dominated the first two rounds, as they have won 19 straight playoff games in the first and second round, easily setting a new NBA record (previous record was 15 by the Detroit Pistons from 1988-90).
In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors have had similar success. They have also swept the first two rounds of their playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz.
Overall the Warriors have won their games by an average of 16.5 PPG, which ranks as the 5th highest differential through the first eight games in any NBA playoff year. In their second round sweep of the Jazz, the Warriors led for 173 of the 192 minutes in the series including all but 37 seconds in Game 4.
This is the first time since the 1989 NBA Playoffs that a team in each conference has swept each of their first two series.
Speaking of the 1989 NBA Playoffs, I can’t help but compare what is going on this postseason to what went on back then. That year, the Lakers in the Western Conference and the Pistons in the Eastern Conference, each swept their first two series. The Lakers would also go on to sweep the Suns in the Western Conference Finals, while the Pistons took six games to defeat Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
What made that playoff year so memorable was the anticipation fans had of the inevitable Lakers-Pistons rematch in the NBA Finals. Both teams played one of the greatest NBA Finals in history in 1988. In Game 6 Isiah Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter on one ankle, but it wasn’t enough as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hit two free-throws in the final seconds to give the Lakers a one-point win.
In Game 7 the Lakers took a 15-point fourth-quarter lead, but the Pistons fought back to cut it to three in the final minute before succumbing to the Lakers. Magic Johnson and company became the first team since the Celtics in the late 60s to win back-to-back titles.
The anticipation of the fans to see a rematch of Magic and Isiah, Worthy and Rodman, Dumars and Scott and Kareem and Laimbeer was special. Fast forward to 2017 and many NBA fans are anticipating a rematch of last years finals.
Just like watching Magic against Isiah, fans now get to watch LeBron against Steph. While Warriors fans are desperate to get revenge and take their title back, Cavaliers fans are excited for the chance to repeat. As the two teams continue on their journey, NBA historians remember when shorts were tight and a very special time in league history.
Hopefully the 2017 NBA Finals will be better than the 1989 Lakers-Pistons rematch. After losing Game 1 in Detroit, the Lakers had their hopes shattered for a three-peat in Game 2 when Magic pulled his hamstring. Though he started Game 3 and tried to tough it out, he couldn’t, and the Pistons swept the Lakers in four straight to win their first NBA title.