How Do NBA Teams Off a Sweep Perform in the Following Game?

How Do NBA Teams Off a Sweep Perform in the Following Game? article feature image

Ken Blaze – USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LeBron James.

On Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Toronto Raptors out of the playoffs for a second consecutive season. This is the sixth time in as many seasons that LeBron James (pictured above) has been part of a series sweep, an NBA record.


Making quick work of the Raptors has earned the Cavs some rest. James and his teammates will have six days off before they play again. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals is Sunday at 3:30 p.m ET in Boston against the Celtics.

How have teams off a sweep performed in their next game, and will the rest help or hurt the Cavs?

According to Bet Labs, 36 teams have swept an opponent in the playoffs since 2005. In the first game of the next series, those squads are 25-11 (69.4%) straight-up and 21-15 (58.3%) against the spread.

Teams off sweeps faced each other in the next round twice, so if you exclude those matchups, the records improve to 23-9 (71.9%) SU and 19-13 (59.4%) ATS.

Teams off sweeps are favored by an average of five points in the first game of the following series. In all playoff games, favorites of 4.5 to 5.5 points have covered the spread 53.5% of the time (147-128-5 ATS). It is a small sample, but teams off sweeps have covered at a higher percentage than similarly favored teams.

This isn’t too surprising, since teams capable of sweeping an opponent in the playoffs are talented and benefit from extra rest, which helps players get healthy and coaches game plan for their next opponent.

We know extra rest matters when handicapping games. Teams with four or more days between games in the postseason are a ho-hum 149-142-1 (51.2%) ATS since 2005. But if that team is favored, as the Cavs likely will be given they are heavy favorites in the Eastern Conference lookahead lines, the ATS record improves to 92-62 (59.7%).

History tells us a well-rested Cavs team should have an early advantage in the series. Game 1 opened as pick’em. A steam move – indication of sharp money – was triggered on Cleveland moving the line to Cavaliers -1.

Early money is on LeBron but small favorites (less than six points) and underdogs off a sweep since 2005 are 5-8 straight-up and against-the-spread. It’s big favorites of six or more points following a 4-0 rout that have been the most profitable: 20-3 straight-up and 16-7 (70%) ATS.

LeBron made beating the Toronto Raptors look easy, he now has time to game plan for Boston and the oddsmakers think Cleveland (-200 favorite to win the series) is the better team. Sunday we will find out if LeBron and the Cavs can cover.