In sports, it is often said that no lead is safe. In the NBA, however, there is one lead that history has proven to be insurmountable.
Since the NBA Playoffs began, 150 teams have faced a 3-0 series deficit in a seven-game postseason series. Of those teams, 15 have won at least two games while four have won three straight games to force a decisive Game 7. None have come back to win the series.
In the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics are looking to make history after facing a 3-0 series deficit to the Heat. Boston took care of business in Games 4 and 5 to keep its season alive, forcing a Game 6 in Miami.
Game 6 delivered an instant classic that was decided by a Derrick White buzzer-beater in the final second of the contest.
Now, the Celtics have a chance to become the first team to ever pull off the reverse sweep.
The Sporting News takes a look back at the instances in which an NBA Playoff series has been extended to six or seven games after a team gets out to a 3-0 series advantage.
Teams to force Game 6 after facing a 3-0 deficit in NBA Playoffs
|2023||Eastern Conference Finals||Heat and Celtics tied 3-3|
|2022||Eastern Conference First Round||76ers defeat Raptors 4-2|
|2015||Eastern Conference First Round||Bulls defeat Bucks, 4-2|
|2013||Western Conference First Round||Thunder defeat Rockets, 4-2|
|2013||Eastern Conference First Round||Knicks defeat Celtics, 4-2|
|2010||Eastern Conference Finals||Celtics defeat Magic, 4-2|
|2007||Eastern Conference Semifinals||Pistons defeat Bulls, 4-2|
|2000||Eastern Conference Semifinals||Pacers defeat 76ers, 4-2|
|1996||NBA Finals||Bulls defeat SuperSonics, 4-2|
|1962||Western Division Finals||Lakers defeat Pistons, 4-2|
|1949||NBA Finals||Lakers defeat Capitols, 4-2|
|1947||Semifinals||Stags defeat Capitols, 4-2|
How many NBA teams facing a 3-0 deficit have forced Game 7?
Celtics vs. Heat, 2023
The Celtics have become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals.
It wasn't easy, though. After rolling Miami in Games 4 and 5, Boston nearly let its chance at history slip away in Game 6. The Celtics led by 10 points with four minutes remaining in the game but in the blink of an eye, their lead was cut to one possession.
Jimmy Butler buried three clutch free throws to give the Heat a one-point lead with three seconds to play. Marcus Smart missed the potential game-winning 3, but Derrick White played hero with a buzzer-beating putback to force a Game 7 back in Boston.
Now, the Celtics are one win away from doing something that has never been done before in NBA history.
Mavericks vs. Trail Blazers, 2003
Behind the play of Dirk Nowitzki, the No. 3 seed Mavericks got out to a 3-0 series lead over the No. 6 Trail Blazers in the opening round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs.
Portland, which lost Games 1 through 3 by an average margin of 8.7 points, responded with blowout wins in Games 4 and 6 flanking a four-point win in Game 5.
With Game 7 back in Dallas, Nowitzki's 31 points and 11 rebounds delivered a 107-95 win for the Mavs.
Jazz vs. Nuggets, 1994
The Nuggets were in the business of making history in 1994.
After becoming the first No. 8 seed to advance past the first round, the Nuggets made the No. 5 Jazz sweat in the West Semis. The Jazz won the first three games but Game 3 was decided by one bucket.
In Game 4, Denver won by one point to stave off elimination before winning Game 5 by eight points on the road and Game 6 by three points at home.
For Game 7, the series returned to Salt Lake City, where 31 points, 14 rebounds and six assists from Karl Malone propelled the Jazz to a 10-point win.
Royals vs. Knicks, 1951
In the 1951 NBA Finals, the Rochester Royals took the first three games from their in-state opponent.
Facing elimination, the Knicks earned a six-point win in Game 4, a three-point win in Game 5 and a seven-point win in Game 6.
With the series back in Rochester for Game 7, Arnie "Stilts" Risen finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds to lift the Royals to a 79-75 win and the 1951 NBA title.