As of now, the Toronto Raptors face elimination from the finals. However, this presents an enormous opportunity of being one of the few to come back from a 3-0 hole in their first-round series against the 76ers. Coach Nick Nurse made a case for his team to accomplish something extremely remarkable that NBA has not seen in a long time.
“I believe it’s a real challenge, and somebody has to do it”
Raptors aiming for 3-0 comeback
With sports seasons ramping up, many have become glued to the TV to watch the game. Speaking of games, ever considered playing games online? Internet websites have a wide variety of games available, among which online pokies are the talk of the town. To play online pokies at sfgate.com, click on the link and enjoy exclusive welcome bonuses. The link has listed the best online pokies site for you with a secure gaming environment.
The National Basketball Association stands alone. The Boston Red Sox famously completed a comeback from down 3-0 against their rival team, the New York Yankees, in the legendary 2004 American League Championship Series on their way to winning the World Series for the very first time since 1918. Four NHL teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit to a marvelous victory, the most recent being the Los Angeles Kings on their way to the 2014 Stanley Cup.
It became clear that Nurse’s Raptors would not be the club to reverse that trend. After staving off elimination for two games, they were blown away in the second half of Game 6 at home. After losing Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at home to the Golden State Warriors, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in the same predicament.
Easier said than done
One hundred forty-three teams in NBA history had already been behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series before this season. Add the Raptors, Denver Nuggets, and Brooklyn Nets, who all fell in the first round, and teams facing this disadvantage are 0-146 all-time.
The problem appears to reside elsewhere and not with the believers’ ability to keep their faith. Teams routinely rally to win Game 4 at home and prevent a sweep. Only 22 of the 146 teams who fell behind 3-0 in a series started playing at home. Collectively, this group is 56-90 in Game 4 (.384 winning percentage), including this year’s games.
The NBA usually uses a best-of-seven format, so if your team is down 3-0, they will have to win Game 5 on the road to avoid being swept. Teams facing a 3-0 deficit in a series are 14-42 (.250) by Game 5. Fewer than 10% of teams recover to win Game 6.
The trend of declining winning percentages for teams down 3-0 in Game 6 runs counter to the idea that pressure shifts over time to the team’s inability to close out. They avoided elimination with a pair of wins in Games 4 and 5, but they went a dismal 3-11 (.214) in Game 6.
You already know that the 2003 Portland Trail Blazers, the 1994 Denver Nuggets, and the 1951 New York Knicks, all of whom won three straight to force Game 7, all lost that game.
A simple matter of odds and mathematics
Theoretically, it isn’t more challenging to mount a comeback from a 3-0 disadvantage than the 3-1 deficits that have become increasingly prevalent. (There have been five since 2015, with the most recent being the Nuggets’ back-to-back 3-1 comebacks in the 2020 bubble playoffs.)
It doesn’t seem all that dissimilar from the two instances from last year’s playoffs in which a team fell behind 2-0 in a series before coming back to win the next four games and ultimately advance to the next round: the Los Angeles Clippers’ comeback against the Utah Jazz in the second round and the Milwaukee Bucks’ victory in the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.
It’s all about home-court advantage, baby. A team that is down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series must win at least two away games before returning home for Game 7. (Host teams have a 110-34 advantage in Game 7s, while their percentage of victories has dropped to 71% since 2000.)
A higher seed that is down 3-1 or a lower seed that is down 2-0 can still win the series with just one road victory. From a 3-1 deficit, only the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers (versus the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals) won the next two games on the road. At their most extreme, the Nuggets’ bubble turnarounds didn’t require them to play any games away from home.
Keys to victory
Health will likely play a role when a team returns from being down 3-0 in a series. Think about how the 2016 Warriors’ NBA Finals series with the Cavaliers went down to the wire, with Andrew Bogut out for the final two games and Draymond Green missing Game 5 due to suspension.
If the Trail Blazers hadn’t won Game 3 of their first-round series against the Clippers, we could have seen a 3-0 comeback earlier that same postseason. Despite the loss in Portland, the Clippers were still considered favorites to progress in the series until Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were injured in Game 4.
After falling behind 3-0, the Blazers came back to win the next three games of the series against a depleted Clippers squad.
As was pointed out last year, players’ injuries sustained during the playoffs have increased dramatically in recent years. Injuries to regulars in the starting rotation have had a significant factor in the postseason in only four of the past seven seasons since 1978. The Mavericks, who are trying to extend the series, could benefit from a change in shot selection. Second, Spectrum’s quantified shot-making (qSM) metric shows that Dallas’ effective field-goal percentage (treating 3s as 1.5 field goals to reflect their additional value) through the first three games is 4.5 percentage points lower than expected based on the location and type of shots, distance to nearby defenders, and ability of the shooters. So buckle up for the most exciting NBA season this winter.
Want to talk sports and/or games with the fastest-growing community in gaming? Join the conversation by joining us on Discord, and check out our Twitter and Facebook pages as well as our growing YouTube Channel!