Famous last words we uttered here on May 14, as we tried in vain to predict how the NBA would rig its Finals matchup for this season. Needless, we are stunned to see not only the math be wrong—after all, the Boston Celtics should have had little trouble with the Miami Heat—but also see the money be wrong, too, as the Denver Nuggets have been sticking it to the Los Angeles Lakers. Both the Heat and the Nuggets hold 3-0 leads in the conference final matchups, shockingly.
First, the Heat: as the lower seed, they started the series on the road and promptly won twice in Boston before dominating Game 3 back at home. Now, NBA teams are 18-0 when taking a 3-0 lead the way Miami has, with the win order coming in the road-road-home sequence. For the record, the Celtics have become the 394th MLB/NBA/NHL team to fall behind 3-0 in a best-of-7 playoff series, and only 5 teams ever have come back to win a series like this.
Offhand, we can think of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings who did it in the first round to the San Jose Sharks on their way to the Stanley Cup title, and also everyone knows of the 2004 Boston Red Sox smashing the Curse of the Bambino by overcoming a 3-0 deficit to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series on their way to the World Series championship. But again, no NBA team has done this, so Boston is looking at long odds here. Long odds.
Fivethirtyeight.com gives the Celtics just an 11-percent chance of pulling it off, which actually seems kind of high. But again, remember that Boston was the math favorite just a week ago to win it all, so the data is there to support the probability. We will see what happens, yet in NBA history, teams in the Celtics position have won Game 4 on the road only four times in 14 chances. And that’s what Boston has to do now: win Game 4 and worry about the rest later.
As for the Nuggets, well … they were favored by the math albeit not the money. So, it’s less surprising to see them up 3-0, and nowhere near as shocking as seeing the Heat up by the same margin. With the home-home-road victory sequence, Denver now moves to the top of the title probability charts—and the Lakers have only a 2-percent chance of overcoming this series deficit. Though, L.A. faces a Game 4 where prior NBA teams like them have gone 50-73 overall.
That’s what the Lake Show must do first, of course: win the next game at home, and like the Celtics, worry about the rest later. Los Angeles has a better chance of winning their first elimination game at home (52 percent) than Boston does on the road (47 percent), however, despite the Celtics’ mathematical advantage over the Heat. Pretty crazy. We are pretty sure there are only like seven people in the entire world who would have picked Denver and Miami to meet in the Finals.
It’s never over until it’s over, but we are shocked to say the least since these 3-0 leads are basic certainties to translate into series wins. Just when we think we have the NBA figured out, it has to go and throw us all a curveball. We do find it interesting, however, that professional teams from both Boston and L.A. have overcome these deficits before, albeit in different arenas of competition. Hmmm.
Don’t you just love sports?!