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The Best Comebacks of NBA’s First Round
Posted By Joel Brigham On May 3, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
While the strangest thing about this season’s playoffs has probably been the never-ending string of injuries to what feels like 50 percent of the league’s most important players, another less depressing trend has taken hold of the first round: big-time series comebacks.
It seems like every time a team gets a comfortable lead in a series, the team on the losing end finds it in themselves to come charging back to make an interesting series out of it. Okay, so the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks didn’t have much of a prayer, but the other teams on this list still do, even after they started their postseason runs in really bad shape.
Brooklyn Nets (Down 3-1) – After another nail-biter in Chicago Thursday night, the Brooklyn Nets have forced a Game 7 at home, which is something most of us thought would not be happening after “The Nate Robinson” game completely swayed momentum in the Bulls’ favor. That should have been a kick to the stomach that completely knocked the wind out of Deron Williams and Co., but instead they’ve remained resilient in what continues to be arguably the ugliest series of the first round.
With Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah battling injuries, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson all battling a pretty debilitating cases of the flu, and Derrick Rose still in street clothes, the Nets look perfectly poised to steal away this series and earn the right to lose to Miami in four games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Boston Celtics (Down 0-3) – Most of the intelligent NBA community was pretty surprised by how little fight the Celtics put up against the New York Knicks in the first three games of this series, particularly because Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett always seem to lead Boston to some measure of postseason success no matter how old they are or how understaffed the roster may be.
That’s why it was so nice to see them charge back in Games 4 and 5, finding not only their offense but also their will to win. Now guys are talking trash and getting up in each other’s faces, and with Game 6 in Boston Friday night, there’s very little chance things get any less ugly. There is a significant chance, however, that this series ends up going seven games, and KG and Truth would absolutely relish the opportunity to be the first NBA team to ever come back from down 0-3 in a series. Another Boston team did in baseball, so why not the Celtics in hoops?
Houston Rockets (Down 0-3) – We wouldn’t be having this conversation if Russell Westbrook wasn’t hurt, but without him the Thunder really are vulnerable, particularly against a young and hungry Houston Rockets team that just so happens to feature the guy OKC decided they didn’t need this past offseason.
Now down 3-2, the Rockets are heating up while the Thunder are starting to look shaken. When massive amounts of points from Kevin Durant can’t clinch a series for two consecutive games, it’s time to get nervous. With Game 6 coming in Houston, it’s certainly not going to get any easier for Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Memphis Grizzlies (Down 0-2) – Well, that series turned around quickly. After starting things off in a two-game hole, the Grizzlies tore off a streak that won them the next three, including a pivotal Game 5 road win at the Staples Center.
They’ve completely slowed down the pace of the series, opting to beat down the Clippers’ will by feeding their beasts in the paint, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. That change in game plan, combined with what has now become homecourt advantage, should allow Memphis to take the series and gear up for a date with either the Thunder or Rockets.
The rest of the NBA has gone small, athletic, and quick, but Memphis has built their game plan around smothering defense and running their offense through their bigs. It’s a strategy that has helped them overcome a pretty awful start to a series it looked like the Clippers would prance right through.
Atlanta Hawks (Down 0-2) – When the Indiana Pacers jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Atlanta, most people assumed the series was over. A side-by-side of the talent on these two teams put Indy way ahead in the eyes of odds makers anyway, so throw in a two-game lead and you’ve got the makings for an ugly series for the Hawks.
Playing to the Hawks’ favor, however, is the fact that Indiana hasn’t won a game in Atlanta since 2006, and that means it won’t be easy for the Pacers to close things out on the Hawks’ home floor for Friday night’s Game 6. Atlanta has been tougher on Indy than anyone thought they’d be, which is why Frank Vogel and his boys are likely thanking the basketball gods that they’ve got homecourt advantage in this series.
Of these five teams, Memphis and Brooklyn are the only teams currently with three wins, so mathematically they’re the best prepared to close out their comeback efforts successfully.
The two teams fighting back from 0-3 holes are extremely interesting, however, and should both the Celtics and Rockets win Game 6 at home, this discussion becomes infinitely more fascinating. Injuries aside, it has been these sorts of comebacks that have defined the first round of the playoffs, which has certainly made for some exciting series.
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