An oft-repeated statistic made the rounds in the NBA world last weekend when the Lakers and Celtics fell behind by a 3-0 margin in their respective conference finals — NBA teams who lost the first three games of a best-of-seven series had a record of 0-149.
The Lakers became the 150th consecutive team to lose a series after dropping the first three games, and it looked heading into Game 4 in Miami on Tuesday like the Celtics would become the 151st, having shown few signs in their first three games against the Heat that they were capable of a history-making comeback.
But a big third quarter and an excellent night from Jayson Tatum, who had a game-high 33 points, fueled a road victory for the Celtics in Game 4. Back in Boston for Game 5 on Thursday, the C’s took a big lead early in the game with a 14-0 first quarter run and never surrendered that lead, forcing a Game 6 in Miami on Saturday.
The Heat still have the upper hand in the series, with a 3-2 lead and a home game on tap, but suddenly the idea of a Celtics comeback doesn’t seem outlandish. Miami’s roster is as banged up as it’s been at any point in the postseason, with Gabe Vincent (ankle) joining Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo on the inactive list for Game 5, leaving the club with little depth in its backcourt.
Heat star Jimmy Butler, who averaged 31.1 PPG on 51.8% shooting in his first 12 playoff contests this spring, has come down to earth a little in his last three games vs. Boston, with those averages dipping to 19.7 PPG and 43.2% shooting (including just 1-of-7 on three-pointers).
According to BetOnline.ag, the Heat are still the betting favorites to make the NBA Finals, but their odds are down to -145 (the Celtics are +125 underdog). And Boston is considered the better bet to win Game 6, having been listed as 2.5-point favorites.
Over the course of NBA history, teams in Boston’s position are 0-for-150, but if ever that streak is going to be broken, it could be in circumstances like these ones. Miami was a play-in team that has exceeded all expectations but is dealing with a handful of injuries and having its depth tested. The Celtics were a dominant regular season team, posting the NBA’s best net rating (+6.7) and second-best record (57-25).
We want to know what you think. Will the Celtics actually complete this improbable comeback or will their efforts hit a wall in Game 6 or 7?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in with your predictions for the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals!