One thing we’ve learned by looking at NBA history, is the fact that no team has ever come back to win a series after being down 3-0. That history makes the chances for both the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals pretty much impossible, but just because it’s never been done before, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen now. LeBron James overcame what we thought was impossible when he led the Cavaliers to an NBA Championship after being down 3-1. That had never been done before. This year’s NCAA March Madness tournament featured a 16 seed beating a 1 seed for the first time ever. Anything is possible, even the impossible. If one of these two teams who are down 3-0 were to be the first team in NBA history to accomplish the impossible task of overcoming a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series, who would you pick?
Coming into the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors were one of the favorites to go the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference. Many said this year would be different, but once again that hasn’t been the case. Their first round series against the Washington Wizards went to 6 games after a tough Wizards team seemed to be playing their best basketball at the right time. As they should have, the Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Their next and current opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, were almost eliminated in the first round after squeezing out a 105-101 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 7.
With the Raptors being the top seed in the conference and the Cavs barely escaping with a first round series win, Toronto had to be feeling good. I bet you they didn’t think they’d be down 3-0. Looking at the three games in this series, the Raptors had a chance to be up 2-1, but playoff LeBron has about buried them in a hole they can’t get out of with some clutch shots. In Game 1, Cleveland escaped with a 113-112 OT victory because of LeBron James. Toronto was up at the end of the fourth quarter, but LeBron was able to tie the game late to force overtime, where the Cavs stole a win.
Game 3 could have been another Raptors victory, but they let it slip away. The game was tied with about eight seconds left, but then playoff LeBron came back to haunt the Raptors. The final minute of this game was the only part I watched. At the time I was watching a movie with my family. For whatever reason I decided to check the score of this game, and I couldn’t be happier I did. I instantly turned the game on my phone. OG Anunoby ties the game and then LeBron gets the ball. Greatness.
Philadelphia has been one of the most hyped up teams coming into the playoffs. They had a pretty easy time in their first round series against the Miami Heat, winning 4-1. Many thought it would be the same when they came to play the Boston Celtics, who are without Kyrie Irving. Boston has been doubted because of their youth, but people forget the 76ers are a pretty youthful team also. Their two biggest stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are first and second year players.
Boston’s youth has outplayed the 76ers youth in this series. With a couple missed shots by the Celtics, Philadelphia could very well be up 2-1. Boston won by five in Game 2 and three in OT in Game 3. The 76ers have played sloppy basketball in this series, especially at the end of games when it matters most. Boston has been in sync throughout the series, much like they have all season long. Despite losing their best player, the Celtics have stuck to their game plan. Coach Brad Stevens continues to find ways to use his players to the best of their abilities.
For the 76ers, small mistakes have been why they haven’t been able to pull out close wins in this series. At the end of OT in Game 3, the Celtics were down 97-98 and were about to inbound the ball. The ball was passed in to Al Horford, who had the smaller Robert Covington on him. Joel Embiid has switched off to someone else, leaving Covington on Horford. Joel Embiid needed to be the one guarding Horford, who got a relatively easy shot because of his size advantage on Covington. Maybe he still would have made it against Embiid, but it would have been a lot more difficult.
Who’s More Likely to Overcome the Deficit?
With my prediction of who’s more likely to overcome being down 3-0, I don’t want you to think I think either team will do it. I believe both the Celtics and Cavaliers will be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, but if I had to choose either the Raptors or 76ers to be the first to overcome 3-0, I’d go with the Raptors. Yes, they’re playing playoff LeBron, but two of their three games have been lost because of game tying or game winning shots by LeBron James. If those shots are misses, this series could be very different. I didn’t pick the 76ers because their games haven’t been won or lost by buzzer beating shots. They’ve been close games, but they’ve made dumb mistakes at the end. Both the 76ers and Raptors have a chance to keep their seasons alive tonight, the 76ers in a few hours. We’ll see if either of these teams can get a victory and live to see another day.