Teams That Came Back From 2-3 Down to Win the NBA Finals

    What are the chances the Miami Heat comes back from 2-3 down in their NBA Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs? Despite playing the last two games at home, they’re not too good, as only four teams have ever managed to turn that kind of deficit around in games 6 & 7 in the 2-3-2 format.

    What are the chances? That depends on the size of the playing field. The NBA Finals have reached a game 6 situation 42 times. In only 7 of them, has the team heading into game 6 trailing in the finals went on to win the series and the NBA title, giving the Heat a 16.7% chance of doing it, if you think that anything the 1962 Boston Celtics did has something to do with LeBron James in 2013.

    If you look at series in the 2-3-2 format, which began in the NBA Finals back in 1985, but was also used in the 1955 series between the Syracuse Nationals and the Fort Wayne Pistons, there have 18 times the teams reached a game 6. In only four of them, have the teams trailing after five games gone on to win the series, giving Miami a 22.2% chance, but then again, it’s only if you think the Boston Celtics from 1969 have anything to do with Erik Spoelstra and Mario Chalmers.

    1955 – Syracuse Nationals

    1955 Syracuse Nationals

    A tainted final to some, as allegations of some Fort Wayne Pistons players conspiring with gamblers to throw the series. In game 6, as the series went back to Syracuse, and the Nationals won 109-104. In game 7, the Pistons had a 41-24 lead in the second quarter, but allowed a Nationals rally to win the game, as George King hit two free throws with 12 seconds left in the game to win it and the title, 92-91.

    From Wikipedia: Andy Phillip, who turned the ball over with three seconds left in the game, was believed by at least one of his teammates, George Yardley, to have thrown the game. “There were always unwholesome implications about that ball game,” Yardley told the author Charley Rosen. However, Phillip may not have acted alone. Other Pistons players were strongly believed to have thrown games during the 1954 and 1955 NBA seasons. In fact, Yardley himself turned the ball over to Syracuse with a palming violation with 18 seconds remaining in Game 7. The foul that gave Syracuse its winning free throw, meanwhile, was committed by Frankie Brian.

    1962 – Boston Celtics


    This was supposed to be the year the Lakers finally beat Boston, but the Celtics won game 6, in LA, 119 to 105, getting 35 points from Sam Jones. Elgin Baylor scored the Finals record of 61 points in game 5. In game 7, Bill Russell scored 30 points and added 40 rebounds, as Frank Selvy missed a wide open shot with five second left in the game, sending it to overtime. Game 7 was played in Boston.

    1969 – Boston Celtics

    Boston Celtics 1969

    Another classic 7-game series between the Celtics and the Lakers, this time with Wilt Chamberlain playing in LA. Jerry West had a huge 39-point night in game 5 to take the Lakers up 3-2, but the Boston Celtics won 99-90, at home, in Game 6, behind 25 points from Don Nelson. Wilt Chamberlain was criticized for scoring only 8 points in that one, erased by Bill Russell. In Game 7, the Lakers didn’t make the most of their home court, losing 108-106. The Celtics held a 103-102 lead when it appeared John Havlicek turned the ball over. Don Nelson took an 18-foot shot that bounced high off the rim and landed in the net, pretty much winning the game 1:33 left in the game.

    1978 – Washington Bullets

    Bullets 1978 Champions

    The Washington Bullets came back home down 2-3 against the Seattle Supersonics, but turned in one of the most lopsided wins in NBA finals history, winning game 6 by 35 points (117-82), led by Elvin Hayes, scoring 21. In Game 7, Dennis Johnson (Supersonics) missed all of his 14 field goal attempts as the Bullets won their first ever NBA title with a 105-99 win in Seattle.

    1988 – Los Angeles Lakers

    1988 NBA Title Ring

    Game 6, as the series between the Lakers and the Pistons went back to Los Angeles (Detroit leading 3-2), turned out to be the famous Isiah Thomas performance, scoring 43 points on a bad ankle, 25 of them in the fourth quarter. With a minute to go, the Pistons held a 102-99 lead; Byron Scott hit a jumper to cut the lead down to one with 45 seconds left, and Abdul-Jabbar hit two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to win the game 103-102.

    Game 7 was a James Worthy performance, scoring 36 points, adding 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a 108-105 win. The game was mostly about the Pistons chasing the Lakers, with Isiah Thomas having a rough night, shooting only 4-12, finishing with 10 points. This was the Lakers’ first Game 7 Finals victory since 1954; however, it was their first ever Game 7 win in the championship series since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.

    1994 – Houston Rockets

    Houston Rockets 1994

    The Knicks held a 3-2 lead as they came back to Houston in what most people remember as an ugly, physical playoff series. John Starks had a chance to win the game and the NBA title in game 6, but he was blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon, and the teams moved on to a game 7. Hakeem Olajuwon and Vernon Maxwell had big games for Houston in Game 7 (combining for 46 points), but John Starks had one of the worst final games in history, shooting only 2-of-18 from the field, as the Rockets won 90-84.

    2010 – Los Angeles Lakers

    Lakers 2010 Champions

    The second Lakers-Celtics finals in three years reached a game 6 as the teams traveled back to LA with Boston up 3-2. The Lakers were too much in game 6, winning 89-67, enjoying Kendrick Perkins tearing his ACL & MCL, while their bench outscored Boston’s 24-0 before garbage time began. Andrew Bynum also left the game early with yet another one of his knee injuries.

    In game 7, it was completely different, and the Lakers scraped their way to a 83-79 win. Kobe Bryant led the scoring with 23 points on a terrible 6-of-24 from the field, but did manage to put up 10 points in the fourth. The real hero was Pau Gasol with a huge 18 points, 15 rebounds game, coming up big in the clutch moments on both ends of the floor, including an offensive rebound that enabled Kobe Bryant to make up for a miss by reaching the line and giving the Lakers a five point lead that was too much for the Celtics to catch up with.

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