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The NBA has seen its fair share of playoff sweeps over the years, with teams succumbing to the dominance of their opponents. In the 2023 Western Conference Finals, the Denver Nuggets made their mark by sweeping the LA Lakers in four games, providing a recent example of such a feat.
When it comes to avoiding a playoff sweep, no NBA team has achieved this elusive distinction. While the league has undergone significant changes in recent decades, requiring teams to win 4-0 to complete a sweep, every team has experienced being swept at least once.
Nevertheless, there is one team that came close to defying this trend—the New Orleans Pelicans. Throughout their 21-year history, they have been swept only once, which is quite an accomplishment considering their overall performance in the league.
Founded in 2002 as the New Orleans Hornets, the Pelicans have made the playoffs nine times but never advanced beyond the second round. Their worst playoff showing came against the Golden State Warriors, who swept them in a four-game series. Despite this, the Warriors’ average margin of victory was just eight points per game, leaving the Pelicans with a chance to avoid the sweep in a closely contested Game 3, which they ultimately lost in overtime.
On the other end of the spectrum, the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics have established themselves as powerhouses in the playoffs. The Lakers have endured 11 sweeps throughout their history, while the Celtics have suffered the indignity of not winning a single game in seven different series. However, their playoff records remain impressive, with the Lakers boasting a win percentage of 59.97% (466-311) and the Celtics close behind at 56.56% (405-311).
As the teams with the most playoff wins, it’s no surprise that the Lakers and Celtics share the record for the most championships in NBA history, with both organizations having clinched the title 17 times.
While playoff sweeps may be a recurring theme in the NBA, every team has had its fair share of struggles, making the quest to avoid a sweep an arduous one. The New Orleans Pelicans stand out as the team that came closest to achieving this feat, but ultimately, no team has managed to escape the clutches of a playoff sweep.