It’s Sweeps Season in the NBA and NHL Playoffs

The Nuggets, Heat, Panthers and Golden Knights are collectively 12-0 in the conference finals

Sam Reinhart and the Florida Panthers celebrate his goal.
Sam Reinhart and the Florida Panthers are on the verge of sweeping the Hurricanes.
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty

Trailing the Heat 3-0 in their best-of-seven series in the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics have the chance to stave off elimination tonight by getting a road win in Miami. Facing the same situation last night in Los Angeles, the Lakers were unable to avoid elimination and were swept 4-0 by the Denver Nuggets in the NBA’s Western Conference finals. Should the Celtics lose tonight as the Lakers did on Monday, it will be the first time in league history that both NBA conference final series have ended in sweeps.

The odds are not in Boston’s favor as 92 of the previous 150 teams (61%) to trail a series 3-0 have been brushed away into four-game oblivion. Forty-four of the 150 teams (29%) have won Game 4 but lost in Game 5 and only 11 (7%) have won twice before getting eliminated in Game 6. As for making it to Game 7, only three of the 150 teams (2%) forced a Game 7 before losing. To date, no NBA team has even come back from a 3-0 hole to win a series.

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That’s not the case in MLB as the 2004 Red Sox famously rallied from a three-game deficit against the New York Yankees to win their championship series in the American League and advance to the World Series, which Boston also won. In the NHL, a handful of teams have rallied from 3-0 deficits to win their series with the 2014 Los Angeles Kings being the most recent franchise to do so.

Trailing the Florida Panthers 3-0 in their conference finals series, the Carolina Hurricanes will be looking to duplicate that feat and avoid being swept out of the playoffs tomorrow night. Though they are only trailing the Las Vegas Golden Knights by two games, the Stars will need a win tonight in Dallas to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole in their conference finals series.

Should the Stars and Celtics lose tonight, every series conference finals series in the NBA and NHL will be on the brink of a sweep or already there. This has never happened before and would leave a strange void in the sports schedule as the NBA Finals aren’t set to tip off until June 1 and the Stanley Cup Final is not scheduled to hit the ice until June 3. It would certainly be historic, but simultaneous playoff sweeps in both leagues are probably not the sort of history NHL and NBA executives want to see.

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