Are we about to witness NBA history? After going down 0-3 against the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics have come all the way back to tie the series at 3-3. An incredible Derrick White game-winner in Game 6 was the shot that forced a decider Game 7 between the two Eastern Conference powerhouses. Unfortunately, their comeback attempt fell short in Game 7, as the Heat finished the job on the road.
Much has been made about the Celtics' failed attempt to be the first NBA team to fully complete a comeback from a 0-3 deficit. However, what's not being talked about that there are only three teams ever to successfully tie the series after their opponent won three straight. Let's look at the teams that were able to force a Game 7 under the most stressful of circumstances.
2023 Boston Celtics
If you told the casual NBA fan that the 2022 – 23 Celtics would go down 3-0 to the eighth seed in the NBA playoffs, you'd be laughed out of the building. All year long, Boston looked like a strong contender to win the championship. They calmly defeated the Atlanta Hawks, then proceeded to knock out the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games.
Against the Heat, though, the Celtics started off flatter than naan. They lost their first two home games, then immediately dropped Game 3 on the road. All hope was lost for this squad. Blame was being passed around, from the players to the coaches. And then… a switch flipped. Suddenly, the Celtics that choked all series long was no more. Boston held their composure and rallied back to tie the series at 3-3.
The Celtics now have a chance to do what's never been done before: come back from a 3-0 lead. Boston was unable to finish off the Heat in four straight games, but they aren't alone. Here are the next three teams that suffered the same fate as the Celtics.
1951 New York Knicks
Let's take it all the way back to 1951, when the NBA was still in its infancy. The game we know and love today looked a lot different during this period. Still, this Finals is interesting because it is the first time in NBA history that a team nearly came back from a 0-3 deficit.
The New York Knicks found themselves in the same predicament against the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). After going down 0-3, though, the Knicks were able to fight back and take the series to a deciding Game 7. Unfortunately, the come back was not meant to be. Game 7 saw Arnie Risen take over for the Royals with 24 points and 13 points, helping Rochester win the title.
1994 Denver Nuggets
Now this is a much more familiar scene for NBA fans. The 1990s were primarily dominated by Michael Jordan and whichever team was able to challenge him in the Finals. However, for a brief moment, one team very nearly took the spotlight away from MJ and the Chicago Bulls. That team was the Denver Nuggets (ironically, the same team that awaits the winner of this Celtics-Heat series).
The eighth-seeded Nuggets initially looked overmatched against the Utah Jazz in the Conference Semi-Finals, and for good reason. This was back when Karl Malone and John Stockton ran Utah. They had an unbelievable squad behind them too, with players like Jeff Hornacek flanking the duo. However, despite the clear talent disparity, Denver was able to claw their way back into the series.
A Reggie Williams game-winner in Game 4 sparked a furious comeback for the Nuggets. Led by Dikembe Mutombo and co., Denver was able to force a do-or-die Game 7. However, Karl Malone proved to be too much for Denver in Game 7, as the star center dropped 31 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Jazz to the Conference Finals.
2003 Portland Trailblazers
The first round of the 2003 NBA playoffs was a wild one. During that first round, the first-seeded Detroit Pistons became the seventh team to come back from a 3-1 deficit, defeating the Orlando Magic. However, that nearly was topped by the Portland Trail Blazers' exploits against the Dallas Mavericks.
Despite adding Scottie Pippen to their roster, the Blazers could only manage a sixth seed in the playoffs. In the first round, they were matched up against a tough opponent: Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks. Bear in mind: this was back when Steve Nash was still with the squad. It was supposed to be over for the Blazers the moment it started, and the 3-0 hole they got into was seemingly proof of that.
However, the Blazers continued to march forward. Thanks to a young Zach Randolph's best efforts, the Blazers were able to force a Game 7 on the road. Similar to the Jazz series above, though, another iconic big man took over for the opposing team. This time, it was the German star Dirk Nowitzki that lit up the Portland defense, going for 31 points during the game.