The NBA Finals is always a tense affair, as teams leave it all on the court in an attempt to win the coveted Larry O'Brien trophy. While some teams have won through the good ol' sweep, others have opted for the spectacular, albeit unintentionally.
Going down 2-0 in an NBA Finals series, which follows a best-of-four format can be demoralizing. However, a handful of teams have successfully overturned a 2-0 deficit and clinched the title.
The 2020-21 LA Clippers deserve honorable mention at this juncture. Although they did not reach the 2021 NBA Finals, they were the comeback kings of the tournament. They overturned two 2-0 deficits in the first two rounds against the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz but failed to pull it off against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, who eventually sent them home in six games.
On that note, let's take a look at the five teams that have overcome a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals.
5. 1968-69 Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s remains the most dominant era in NBA history. They won nine championships from 1960 to 1969, but it did not all come easy. On occasion, they had to claw their way back from deficits, and the 1968-69 season was one of them.
It was not a dominant season for the Celtics, as they finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with only 48 wins. They struggled on offense but had a defensive structure that was unshakable. They made quick work of the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Division semi-finals, winning the series in five games. The New York Knicks also met the same fate in the Division Finals.
The Celtics squared off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, in what was another heavyweight battle between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. The Lakers went 2-0 up in the series but failed to maintain the momentum. After all was said and done, the fixture ended in favor of the Celtics after a narrow 108-106 victory in Game 7.
4. 1976-77 Portland Trail Blazers
It was new territory for the seven-year Portland Trail Blazers, who joined the NBA before the start of the 1970-71 season. However, they successfully showed resolve in their first playoff appearance in franchise history, going all the way to win the championship.
The Trail Blazers had a dominating run ahead of the NBA Finals with a 10-3 record in the playoffs. It was a well-balanced team that knew how to get the job done on both ends of the floor. They swept the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals to secure their first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
Losing the first two games against the Sixers in the Finals was a wake-up call for the Trail Blazers, who went on to win the next four games in the series. Bill Walton cleaned up the glass on both ends of the court perfectly while Maurice Lucas led the team in scoring. Although the Trail Blazers have made a couple more appearances in the NBA Finals, they only have one title.
3. 2005-06 Miami Heat
Six minutes made the difference in this matchup, as the Dallas Mavericks failed to protect their 13-point lead in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks had the opportunity to put the series out of reach for the Heat, but they could not contain Dwyane Wade.
In partnership with Shaquille O'Neal, Wade recorded a game-high 42 points and 13 rebounds to complete a comeback late in the 4th quarter. With a narrow 98-96 win, the Heat won their first of four victories in the series.
It was an outright battle for the remaining three games in the series as the Heat gave no quarters to the Mavericks. Although there were a couple of close victories, Wade was the difference as he posted ridiculous numbers to rally his team to victory after six games. The Mavericks, however, had their revenge in 2011 against the Heat superteam.
2. 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers have pulled off the greatest upset in NBA history after overcoming a 3-1 deficit to clinch the title in 2016. But before it got to that point, they first made sure that they did not go 3-0 down after losing the first two games. To date, no team has completed a comeback series win after losing the first three games.
It was LeBron James' second attempt to bring a championship to Cleveland since his return in 2014 after his run with the Heat. Although he reached the NBA Finals in the 2014-15 season, the Golden State Warriors were on hand to deny them the championship.
The Cavaliers pulled off the spectacular against all odds against the 73-9 Warriors, who were favored to win the title. After going 2-0 down in the series, LBJ and the Cavs took Game 3 at the Quicken Loans Arena, but things looked bleak when the Warriors won Game 4. Following a series of inspiring performances from James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs managed to win the next three games to clinch the title. Although both teams met in the Finals in the next two years, the Warriors made sure to exact revenge, including a series sweep in the 2018 Finals.
1. 2020-21 Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks have been starved of playoff success and were desperate to change that. They qualified for playoff action for four consecutive seasons before the 2021-22 NBA season but failed to advance past the conference finals. Their loss against the 5th-placed Heat in the semi-finals of the 2020 playoffs was disappointing, seeing as they finished as the top seed in the conference.
To kick off the 2021 playoffs, the Bucks got revenge in the best possible way against the Heat, sweeping them in the first round. It went a long way in announcing their presence in the playoffs, as they were the only team that pulled off a sweep in the first round. Two Game 7 victories in the semi-finals and finals against the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks secured the Bucks a place in the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
The 2021 NBA Finals hosted two teams filled with debutants, but they did not fail to put on a show. The Phoenix Suns, led by Chris Paul, got off to a flying start, winning the first two games by a combined 23 points, but the Bucks made sure to clip their wings before they became untouchable. In a series filled with 40+ point games, the Bucks won the next four games, with Giannis Antetokounmpo dropping 50 points in the series-clinching Game 6.
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