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2024 NBA Finals: Can Mavericks make comeback history? Only five teams have successfully overcome a 2-0 deficit

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The Boston Celtics hold a 2-0 series lead against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, and with the way this is going, it’s not unreasonable to start talking about a possible sweep. The Mavericks have looked like a shell of the team that dominated in the Western Conference finals, and if they lose Game 3 on Wednesday, their margin for error is practically zero.

But just because the Mavericks are swimming upstream doesn’t mean that it isn’t impossible for them to not only overcome this 2-0 deficit but also end up hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy when this is all said and done. In NBA history, teams leading 2-0 in the Finals are 31-5, and while those odds bode well for the Celtics, the Mavericks should also find some solace in the fact that the position they’re currently in doesn’t mean they’re doomed.

We’ve seen this Mavericks team overcome a deficit like this before. They fell behind 2-0 in the second round of the playoffs in 2022 to the Phoenix Suns, only to win that series in seven games. Different circumstances and almost an entirely different team, but when you have two offensive talents like Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, you can never rule out the impossible.

With that being said, here are the five teams the Mavericks are trying to join that overcame a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals to win it all.

The Bucks lost the first two games of the 2021 NBA Finals to the Phoenix Suns, who looked on track to capture their franchise’s first championship. But a 20-point beatdown in Game 3 gave the Bucks life, and a 40-point performance from Khris Middleton in Game 4 evened things up. In Game 5, Milwaukee almost had three scorers eclipse the 30-point mark to take their first series lead, and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished things off in Game 6 with a classic closeout performance where he posted an absurd 50 points. Milwaukee’s stars shined over the last four games of this series, something Dallas will need if they want to have any chance against the Celtics.

Result: Bucks won in six games

If the Mavericks are looking for the ultimate inspiration, then the ’16 Cavaliers should serve as that. Going against a Warriors team that won an NBA record 73 games in the regular season, it looked like this was Golden State’s to lose. In fact, after going up 2-0, it felt like a sweep was in the works after Cleveland lost Game 1 by 15 points and Game 2 by 33 points. The Cavs won Game 3, but then went down 3-1 in the series after a loss in Game 4. They won the next two games to set up a dramatic Game 7, in which LeBron James had perhaps the most important block in NBA Finals history and Irving hit a 3-pointer that immortalized him in Cavaliers lore forever. Dallas will need Irving to muster up some of that 2016 magic to pull out another title this year, but he’s done it before, so who’s to say he can’t again?

Result: Cavaliers won in seven games

Avert your eyes to this part, Mavericks fans. Dallas gutted out back-to-back wins to open up this series against the Miami Heat, as Dirk Nowitzki looked prime to bring the Mavs their first championship. But then a 24-year-old Dwyane Wade’s legacy began to build. In two of the next four games, Wade dropped 40+ points, including two game-winning free throws in overtime in Game 5 to take Miami’s first lead of the series. In Game 6, Wade went an efficient 10 of 18 from the floor to finish with 36 points, closing out the Mavericks and capturing his first of three titles over his career.

Result: Heat won in six games

The magnitude of this championship is still the peak of Blazers basketball, with it being the first time the franchise made the playoffs, and going through a gauntlet of opponents to get to the NBA Finals, which included sweeping Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. But it wasn’t without some adversity first. The 76ers got out to a 2-0 lead behind a 33-point performance from Julius Erving in Game 1, and 27 points from Doug Collins in Game 2. But once the series shifted to Portland, the Blazers kicked things into high gear with back-to-back blowout wins with an average margin of victory of +27. Over the next two games, Bill Walton proceeded to average an absurd 23.5 rebounds, leading the Trail Blazers to the franchise’s only championship and claiming Finals MVP in the process. 

Result: Blazers won in six games

1969 Boston Celtics

Here’s proof that Boston should know that a 2-0 lead means little in the grand scheme of things. The Lakers, behind a 53-point barn burner from Jerry West in Game 1 and a 41-point outing from him in Game 2, held a 2-0 lead in what was the second-consecutive meeting of these two teams in the Finals. It looked like the Lakers were going to exact their revenge on the Celtics after losing in the previous year, but the Celtics evened things up with two straight wins. The Lakers took control of the series with a Game 5 win, and could’ve eliminated the Celtics in Game 6, but Boston was able to overcome strong performances from West and Elgin Baylor to force a Game 7. Once there, John Havlicek turned in a vintage performance with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while two other Boston players reached the 20-point mark. It was Boston’s 11th title in 13 years, which ended up being the last of what was the golden age of Celtics basketball.

Result: Celtics won in seven games

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league’s biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.

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