There has never been a pair of 4-0 sweeps in the third round of the NBA playoffs, but the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat are in position to change that. The Nuggets lead the Los Angeles Lakers 3-0 in the Western Conference finals; the Heat lead the Boston Celtics 3-0 in the Eastern Conference finals.
Denver can wrap up its series on Monday night in Los Angeles. Miami will aim to finish off a sweep on Tuesday, at home.
Since the NBA started calling this round the “conference finals” in 1971, the fewest games needed to decide the champions of the East and West was nine.
That happened on four occasions — 1974 (Boston beat New York 4-1 in the East, Milwaukee beat Chicago 4-0 in the West), 1986 (Boston beat Milwaukee 4-0 in the East, Houston beat the Lakers 4-1 in the West), 2015 (Cleveland beat Atlanta 4-0 in the East, Golden State beat Houston 4-1 in the West) and 2017 (Cleveland beat Boston 4-1 in the East, Golden State beat San Antonio 4-0 in the West).
By the way, the maximum number of games — 14 — were needed for the conference finals in 1979 and 2018, when everything was decided in Game 7s. In 1979, Washington beat San Antonio and Seattle beat Phoenix. In 2018, Cleveland beat Boston and Golden State beat Houston.
He could only watch as the Nuggets were routed by Phoenix in the second round of the playoffs that year and again by the Warriors in the first round last year when their other max player, Michael Porter Jr., also was sidelined.
But this could be their best opportunity to date.
With Murray back healthy and Jokic a matchup nightmare for anyone, they’re rolling along, winning nine of 12 playoff games so far.
“They’re a dynamic duo, great symmetry, know each other well,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “Great rhythm, regardless of who’s initiating, who’s screening. ... We have to be ready to really defend that at a high level.”
That’s a difficult ask.
“We just have to make it tough for him, switching up matchups and schemes on him,” Davis said of Jokic.