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11 Times The NBA Champions Came Back From A 2-1 Deficit: The Warriors Dynasty Can Still Win

11 Times The NBA Champions Came Back From A 2-1 Deficit: The Warriors Dynasty Can Still Win

Being up 2-1 is always the better option, but it’s not always necessary. After all, it’s a best-of-seven series. The true NBA champion has a lot more work to do before they can celebrate. The Golden State Warriors find themselves in a hole after losing to the Boston Celtics in Game 3. With Game 4 set to feel like a must-win game for the Warriors, it will set up another thrilling performance.

History has shown that the team that trails after the third game 2-1 can still win. Their chances are a lot higher than those who have trailed 3-0. The Warriors can be happy knowing that 11 times a champion has been named after trailing 2-1 in the series. It happened as recently as last year.

Here are the 11 times that the NBA champion came back from a 2-1 series to win the Finals.


1957 NBA Finals

Boston Celtics vs. St. Louis Hawks 4-3

Bob Pettit was a monster in the 1957 playoffs. He led the playoffs with the most points scored and nearly led St. Louis to a championship. Pettit scored 37 points in a Game 1 125-123 victory. The Celtics rallied to take Game 2 but the Hawks won another close game in Game 2 with a 110-98 win.

The Celtics stayed alive by stealing a game on the road with a 123-118 win. Then, the team returned home and defended home court with a 124-109 win. The Hawks won their third game of the series by two points with a 96-94 win in Game 6, but the Celtics finally won a close game and it was the one that mattered. The Celtics celebrated winning the title in Boston with a 125-123 win. Pettit led all scorers in the last four games, but the Celtics were able to come out with the title.


1962 NBA Finals

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-3

It was a battle of No. 1 seeds. The NBA Finals featured the two best teams in each conference. The Celtics won the first game, but the Lakers used a 40-point game from Jerry West in Game 2 and 39 points from Elgin Baylor to take Game 3. On the road, the Celtics once again stole Game 4 with a 115-103 win despite 38 points from Baylor.

Baylor used 61 points in Game 5 to lead the Lakers to a 126-121 win. With Game 6 in Los Angeles, the Lakers felt they could win. Instead, the Celtics defied the odds with a 119-105 win thanks to 35 points from Sam Jones. The Celtics won Game 7 despite 41 points from Baylor but were led by 40 rebounds from Bill Russell in the 110-107 victory.


1969 NBA Finals

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-3

With West’s 53 points in Game 1, the Lakers were able to muster enough to win 120-118. The Lakers took Game 2 despite John Havlicek scoring 43 points. When the Celtics returned home, they took both games, which included stealing Game 4 by a score of 89-88. West scored 40 points and Chamberlain recorded 31 rebounds, but the Lakers still came up short.

The Lakers won Game 5 with West scoring 39 points, but the Celtics held off the Lakers in Boston 99-90 to set up a Game 7. For the first time in the series, the home team did not win as the Celtics won 108-106 as three players scored at least 20 points to push past West’s 42 points.


1977 NBA Finals

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Philadelphia 76ers 4-2

The 76ers protected their home court by winning Games 1 and 2. Julius Erving and Doug Collins were unstoppable, but once the series returned to Portland, everything changed. The Trail Blazers blew past the 76ers 129-107 to get their first win and then blew out the team again in the Game with a 130-98 win.

With Lionel Hollins starting to heat up, it was time for Julius Erving to try and battle back to save the series. Erving led all scorers with 37 points in Game 5 and 40 points in Game 6, but the Trail Blazers pushed past both times. That included 14 points and 24 rebounds from Bill Walton in a 110-104 win in Game 5. Then, Portland closed out the series 109-107 at home with 20 points and 23 rebounds from the Finals MVP.


1978 NBA Finals

Washington Bullets vs. Seattle SuperSonics 4-3

The SuperSonics shocked the world by making the NBA Finals as a No. 4 seed and nearly won the title. The SuperSonics held a 2-1 series edge with a 106-102 win in Game 1 and a 93-92 win in Game 3 despite 29 points and 20 rebounds from Elvin Hayes. With Game 4 in Seattle, Washington stole Game 4 with a 120-116 win.

The series was played under a 1-2-2-1-1 format, which meant that Game 5 was played in Seattle. Fred Brown scored 26 points to lead Seattle to a 98-94 win. With the game back in Washington, Hayes recorded 21 points and 15 rebounds in a 117-82 win. On the road, the Bullets won the series with a 105-99 win with 19 points coming from Bob Dandridge and Charles Johnson.


1984 NBA Finals

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers 4-3

By now, Laker fans knew that holding a 2-1 series lead didn’t mean much. The Celtics had come back two times and then the 1984 NBA Finals made it a third. The Lakers used 32 points from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 1 and then used a complete team effort to blow away Boston 137-104 in Game 3. The Celtics stole Game 2 despite 29 points from James Worthy.

With Game 4 in Los Angeles, the Celtics used 29 points and 21 rebounds to win 129-125. Then, the Celtics used 34 points and 17 rebounds from Bird to win 121-103 in Game 5. However, the Lakers kept the series alive with a 119-108 win in Game 6 with Abdul-Jabbar scoring 30 points. In Boston, the Celtics closed out the series with a 111-102 win with Bird winning Finals MVP.


2006 NBA Finals

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks 4-2

It was over 20 years before we saw another team come back from a 2-1 deficit. Most of the teams that went up 2-1 typically won the series, but the 2006 Finals were different. The Mavericks held a 2-0 series lead thanks to 32 points from Jason Terry and 26 points and 16 rebounds from Dirk Nowitzki in Games 1 and 2 respectively. The Heat avoided trailing 3-0 thanks to 42 points and 13 rebounds from Dwyane Wade in a 98-96 win.

Wade went on a scoring tear the next three games to help Miami win their first title in team history. That included 36 points in a 98-74 win in Game 4. Then, Wade scored 43 points to hold off the Mavericks 101-100 in Game 5. On the road, Wade scored 36 points in a 95-92 win in Game 6 to claim Finals MVP.


2013 NBA Finals

Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs 4-3

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were on a mission to win another title together. The Spurs won Game 1 with 21 points from Parker. The two teams blew each other out the next two games with San Antonio taking the 2-1 series lead. The Heat responded with another blowout with a 109-93 win in Game 4 to tie the series.

The Spurs won a close Game 5 with 26 points from Parker. On the road, the Spurs nearly closed out Game 6, but we remember the offensive rebound from Chris Bosh, the game-tying three-pointer from Ray Allen, and the overtime finish to win 103-100. Then, Finals MVP LeBron James closed out the series with 37 points in Game 7 to help Miami repeat as champions.


2015 NBA Finals

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2

For the first time on this list, after losing Game 1, a team went on to win Games 2 and 3. The Cavaliers won Game 2 with 39 points and 16 rebounds from James to win 95-93. Then, James poured in 40 points to lead Cleveland to a 96-91 win in Game 3. With Game 4 in Cleveland, it set up a huge stage, but the Warriors blew past the Cavaliers 103-82.

James scored 40 points and 14 rebounds in Game 5, but the Warriors used 37 points from Steph Curry to win 105-91. Then, the Warriors held off James again, with 32 points and 18 rebounds, with Curry scoring 25 points, while Finals MVP Andre Iguodala scored 25 points of his own to help the Warriors win the title.


2016 NBA Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors 4-3

Double history was made in this series. Not only did the Cavaliers come back from a 2-1 deficit, but they became the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship. The Warriors won the first two games in California in convincing fashion 104-98 and 110-77. Cleveland responded with a 120-90 win in Game 3, but the Warriors won Game 4 with a score of 108-97. The world was ready to write off the Cavaliers and celebrate the Warriors, who had won an NBA record 73 games in the regular season.

Instead, Kyrie Irving and James each scored 41 points to help Cleveland win 112-97 in Game 5. Then, James scored 41 points to lead the Cavaliers to a 115-101 win in Game 6. With Game 7 in the loud Oracle Arena, the Cavaliers held on to a 93-89 win, which featured the iconic game-winning three-point shot from Irving and the game-saving blow from James on Iguodala. Finals MVP James had finally brought his home state of Ohio a title.


2021 NBA Finals

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns 4-2

After the Suns took a 2-0 series lead, the world thought Chris Paul was finally going to win his first title. Giannis Antetokounmpo had other plans. That included 41 points and 13 rebounds to get Milwaukee their first win in Game 3. Then, the Bucks never looked back.

The Bucks won Game 4 despite Devin Booker’s 42 points with a 109-103 margin. Booker scored 40 points again in Game 5, but Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday combined for 88 points in a 123-119 win. Finally, Antetokounmpo became a legend as he became the seventh player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a Finals game. His 50 points and 14 rebounds led Milwaukee to a 105-98 win in Milwaukee to give the franchise their first championship since 1971.


The Warriors Still Have A Chance

If there is a team that came back from a 2-1 series deficit, it’s these Warriors. For starters, the Warriors have been a part of the winning and losing end of a 2-1 series. Experience goes a long way and the core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green knows all about those moments. Not to mention, head coach Steve Kerr has had to be the one guiding the team through those moments as he was the coach each time.

Meanwhile, in history, if you look at the last 10 NBA Finals, four of those champions have come back from a 2-1 deficit. While the series does favor the team 60% of the time who leads 2-1, having a 40% edge yourself is not a bad percentage either. What all four of the teams who came back have in common are superstars. Curry, James, two times, and Antetokounmpo were all-stars that had huge hands in leading their team to a title. If the Warriors want to win this series, they will need their star Curry to step up in a big way. 

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