Coming back when 0-3 in best of 7

The Milwaukee Bucks, the #1 seed in the NBA is down 3-0 and has been written off by the announcers since “no team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs”. This is a surprising result, no? Usually if a team is up 3-0 they are markedly better. But sometimes it is luck and close losses - and if the teams are almost 50:50 you’d think a comeback might happen almost 1/16 of the time. Are other sports this lopsided? I’m pretty sure hockey and baseball teams have been able to recover?

Hockey has actually had several instances where a team has managed to come back from 0-3 deficits. The Maple Leafs did it once in the 1940s to win the Stanley Cup, I’m pretty sure. In baseball, I think the only one still is the 2004 Red Sox in the ALCS.

The Boston Red Sox famously did this in 2004 against the Yankees. They were the first Major League Baseball team to accomplish this.

It seems there are three times in the NBA where a team down 0-3 has managed to force a seventh game. As for a reverse sweep, it’s only happened nine times in any sport - four in the NHL, once in MLB and only four times in any other professional league.

But it wasn’t the Bucks. In fairness, it can’t be easy living in a bubble or thinking about Kenosha. An odd season, asterisk asterisk.

There’s a Wikipedia page that address this exactly:

I came across it when the Isles were up 3-0 over the Flyers.

Regarding the NBA, there’s so much scoring that the better team usually wins the game. This is as opposed to, for example, hockey, where a fluky goal can win it. Each NBA game is more like a statistically valid sample. On 538, they reference a statistic that the better NBA team will win a best-of-seven series around 80% of the time. For the NHL to have the better team come out on top 80% of the time, you need a best of 51 series!

So, that’s probably why no NBA team has ever come back. Hockey games, and even baseball games, are much closer to slightly weighted coin flips than basketball games are. If an NBA team is up 3-0, they probably deserve to be there.

I’ve heard anecdotally that in the NBA even overcoming a 2-0 deficit is not particularly easy. I do not know how common that is.

Well, (anecdotally, since I am at work and have no time to dig up stats,) it has happened quite a few times. Spurs held a 2-0 lead over the Lakers in 2004, then lost four in a row. Mavs held a 2-0 lead over the Heat in 2006, then lost four in a row. Spurs held a 2-0 lead over the Thunder in 2012, then lost four in a row.

Of course, But if in a season there are 15 playoff series, all of which are 2-0 or 1-1 after two games. Does coming back from 2-0 happen every season ?

There have been 21 comebacks in NBA history from 0-2 in a best-of-seven series, and 6 in a best-of-5, but that’s not actually many. There have been a LOT of 0-2 deficits.

The Nuggets came back from down 3-1 to the Jazz to win Game 7. They’ve come back from down 3-1 to the Clippers in the next round to force Game 7. If they win tonight, would that be the first time a team has overcome two 3-1 deficits in the same postseason?

Yes. Hell, it’s the only time an NBA team has even managed to TIE a series twice in a postseason when down 1-3.

In 2016, Golden State achieved the unique feat of being the only team that, in the same postseason, came back from 1-3 to win (against OKC in the Western final) and blow a 3-1 lead to lose (against the Cavaliers in the Finals.)

In other sports. the 1985 Royals are the only team to do it twice in baseball and the 2003 Minnesota Wild, of all teams, are the only NHL team to do it.

Interestingly enough, the Wild achieved this feat in the first and second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, before getting swept in the Western Conference Finals.