OKC Thunder: How should a team approach a potential sweep — ignore it or embrace it?

With a victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 on Saturday, OKC would pull off a sweep, eliminating the reigning world champions 4-0. How should a team approach a potential sweep?
BY JOHN ROHDE Published: May 4, 2012

— As an All-Star point guard with the Philadelphia 76ers, Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks experienced the ultimate sweep when the Sixers beat the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games for the 1983 NBA title.

With a victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 on Saturday, OKC would pull off arguably the runner-up ultimate sweep by eliminating the reigning world champions 4-0 in the first round.

Tipoff at American Airlines Center is 6:30 p.m.

Should the Thunder even be thinking sweep? Should they deliberately not think sweep? Is it taboo to discuss a possible sweep?

As we have learned ad nauseam since the franchise arrived in OKC in 2008, everyone listed in the Thunder directory views life one day at a time, and the postseason certainly is no different. Should anyone on the roster dare look past the next game, his head might explode. No exaggeration.

In general terms — not day-to-day — how should a team approach a potential sweep? Ignore it? Embrace it? Deny it? Roll with it?

No NBA team has ever won a playoff series after trailing 3-0. The 1951 New York Knicks, 1994 Denver Nuggets and 2003 Portland Trail Blazers are the only teams to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, but each lost the finale.

The 1983 Sixers were so dominant with Cheeks, they went 12-1 overall in the playoffs, beating New York (4-0) and Milwaukee (4-1) before sweeping the Lakers.

"I don't speak in terms of a sweep," Cheeks said before Friday's practice. "It's crazy to think that way or expect it. To do it, you have to have a lot of things go your way, and the other team has to have some bad luck involved."

Though he won the 2008 world title with the Boston Celtics, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins has been involved in only one sweep in his nine-year career — and he was on the wrong side of it.

The Indiana Pacers had a first-round sweep over the Celtics during Perkins' rookie season in 2003-04. In fact, Boston lost Games 3 and 4 at home by 23 and 15 points.

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