Ninety-four percent of all playoff series that went to 2-0 were won by the team with the first two. When the figures about the teams that have escaped that hole and won are broken out, it’s never to inspire hope in a rally; instead that percentage is like hearing your probability of living after a grisly diagnosis. You have a 94 percent chance of not making it past the next month. Alert your kin. When we were bringing out those figures just a week ago in these NBA playoffs, though, we didn’t see the defibrillator being brought in the back door.
How else to explain the rise of the too-old Boston Celtics (2-2 entering tonight’s game against Miami) and the still-green Oklahoma City Thunder (up 3-2 on San Antonio)? In the case of the former, one-man show Rajon Rondo finally got the help from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen missing so much in the first two. Out West, Thabo Sefolosha‘s two-way clinic in Game 3 stopped San Antonio in its tracks. By the time Game 5 happened last night, they were in disarray enough to force Gregg Popovich to try something he’d only done seven times before this season — start Manu Ginobili (the Spurs looked in sync late but their first-half confusion might as well have spotted OKC 10 points).
But this has happened before in the playoffs 14 times. It’s the first time since 2007 two teams have done it in the same postseason, and the first time since 2005 two teams have done it in the same round. We won’t try to jinx Boston or Oklahoma City, but here are the top five 0-2 comebacks in NBA playoff history.
5. 1993: Chicago over New York, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls had gone 15-2 in 1991 en route to a title and 15-7 in 1992 for a repeat. In ’92, they held off a Knicks team hell-bent to end that run in seven games in the East semis after New York had trailed 2-1. The three-peat would have to go through Madison Square Garden, again, in 1993, in a series between two of the best rivals in the game. This time, though, MVP Michael Jordan would have to lead Chicago out of a 2-0 hole.
In Game 4, Jordan brought out a haymaker of a game with 54 points to get Chicago to the tie. He also did it with an injured shooting wrist. He’d go on to average 41 points per game in the finals, a title that wouldn’t have happened by putting his foot on the Knicks’ throat a second year in a row.