The Boston Celtics have fallen into an unenviable position in their Eastern Conference finals series with the Miami Heat.
Boston lost each of the first two games at TD Garden, setting themselves up to have to win 4-of-5 games to advance to their second consecutive NBA Finals appearance. The likelihood of that happening would be low against anyone, but looks nearly impossible against prolific playoff performer Jimmy Butler, who surely couldn’t lose a series in which he led his team to a 2-0 lead on the road, right?
Well, things aren’t so cut and dry.
The Celtics have found themselves in an 0-2 hole before heading on the road to face a Butler-led team before, as the 2017 Chicago Bulls waltzed into Boston and defeated the Celtics in the first two games of their first-round series. In fact, that Bulls team might have been more talented than this Heat team, as Butler’s supporting cast boasted the likes of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. That Celtics team also wasn’t anything to write home about, with Isaiah Thomas starring on a roster that consisted of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson in the starting lineup. Al Horford was perhaps his best self that season, to be fair, but this is a team that had Jaylen Brown coming off the bench as a rookie alongside Marcus Smart. It wasn’t exactly the uber-deep squad Boston boasts now.
In the four games following Butler and Chicago’s two wins, Boston turned around and swept through the Bulls on their way to advancing to the second round. So, no, the C’s aren’t dead in the water just yet.
There is still a question as to whether a team could do this in the conference finals and go on to win a championship.
Wait, what’s that? There’s historical precedent for that as well?
That’s right, there has been one (1!!!) team to bounce back from an 0-2 home deficit in the conference finals and win the whole thing, as Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets did it in 1994. There have been nine teams in total to win a title after being down 0-2 in the conference finals or later, according to Celtics voice Sean Grande, but only the Rockets did it on the road.
Is the history rich and robust? No. Is it there? Yes.