MIAMI (AP) – This has been done four times in the Stanley Cup playoffs, most recently by eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in 2014. Done once in baseball, the Boston Red Sox pulled it off against the New York Yankees on their way to winning the 2004 World Series. There have been a few examples in the minor leagues.
Technically, a 3-0 series deficit is not insurmountable.
The first decisive opportunity of this year’s NBA Playoffs has arrived, and history says the Milwaukee Bucks can move on and start preparing for the next round. They lead the Miami Heat 3-0 in their Eastern Conference first-round series, with Game 4 set to start a playoff quadruple on Saturday.
âWe’re going to stay focused,â Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “The job is not done.”
“Being ahead 2-1 is great,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after his team won in Portland on Thursday night to regain control of the game. âIt’s the same situation they were in. They entered our building, won the first game and we were able to tie. And they’re going to come out super-aggressive because they won’t want to come back to Denver 3-1. So we’re going to have it all, the kitchen sink, name it, Saturday afternoon.
The teams have held the series 3-0 in the NBA’s best of seven games 140 times. A scan was the result in 87 of them, or 62% of the time; 40 series have ended in five games; 10 ended in six and three were even pushed to a Game 7 – most recently Dallas’ victory over Portland in the 2003 first round.
But in all 140 cases, the 3-0 lead held up.
âThe back is against the wall,â said Miami center Bam Adebayo. “It’s literally winning or going home.”
The tables were turned last season in the Eastern semifinals. Miami led Milwaukee 3-0 into the NBA reboot bubble at Walt Disney World, and the Bucks – even with Antetokounmpo with an ankle injury – found a way to force Game 5 before the Heat finished the game.
That’s Miami’s goal right now, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: win once and see where it goes.
âYou take one step at a time,â Spoelstra said. âIt can all seem overwhelming if you look at the big picture. You take one step at a time. We are able to play well enough to win a game and that is our whole goal at the moment.
Antetokounmpo insisted the Bucks weren’t going to relax, even though history says they can.
âIn Game 4, Miami is going to come out even harder, play better,â Antetokounmpo said. âThey’re going to find a way to get a lot of open shots, a lot of easy looks. … At the end of the day we focus on Game 4 and how we can be better.
Milwaukee leads 3-0. Thu 4, 1:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.
– NEED TO KNOW: The Bucks have beaten Miami by at least 29 points three times this season. This is only the second time such a thing has happened to the Heat; Pat Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers beat them three times by at least 32 points in the franchise’s 1988-89 first season.
– Keep an eye out: Miami is in desperate need of 3 to fall. The Heat were 20 for 50 from beyond the arc in a game 1 overtime loss; they’ve gone 17 for 60 combined in the two blowout losses since.
– INJURY WATCH: G Bucks Donte DiVincenzo left Game 3 with what was called a bruised left foot, and it turned out a lot worse. The Bucks said on Friday that DiVincenzo would miss the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left ankle.
– THE PRESSURE IS ACTIVATED: No one. History says the series is over. No one should feel any pressure unless the series reaches Game 6, and only then should the Bucks start to worry.
Denver leads 2-1. Thu, 4, 4 p.m. EDT, TNT.
– NEED TO KNOW: In three games, the Denver starters scored 275 points, Portland 273. The difference was the benches. The Portland bench topped Denver’s by 14 in Game 1 and the Blazers won by exactly 14. In Game 2, the Denver bench topped Portland’s by 17; the Nuggets won by 19. And in Game 3, the Denver bench topped Portland by five; the Nuggets won by exactly five.
– Keep an eye out: Portland’s Damian Lillard averages 37.7 points in the series, Denver’s Nikola Jokic averages 36. The stars live up to their bill.
– INJURY WATCH: Denver’s Will Barton (hamstring) still hasn’t played since April 23.
– THE PRESSURE IS ACTIVATED: Portland. The Blazers are 2-10 in their last 12 playoff games and can’t reasonably expect to win both Game 5 and Game 7 in Denver. This is almost certainly the time to save.
Philadelphia leads 2-0. Game 3, 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
– NEED TO KNOW: Ben Simmons (14 points, 12 rebounds, 11.5 assists) is averaging a two-game triple-double, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid averaging 54 points combined and the 76ers trailed for about nine minutes off of the 96 played so far. Very professional start for the No. 1 seed in the East.
– KEEP AN EYE ON: Washington’s Bradley Beal has 33 points in each of the first two games of the series and could be called up for even more if the Wizards want to return in that game.
– INJURY WATCH: Westbrook’s ankle problem is central to Washington’s shattered hopes. He didn’t train on Friday, received treatment instead and Wizards coach Scott Brooks said the team “will see how he feels” on Saturday.
– PRESSURE IS ACTIVATED: arena security and referees. Tensions will be high. A repeat of the scene in Philadelphia would be a terrible look for the league.
Series tied 1-1. Game 3, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
– NEED TO KNOW: Memphis is playing a home playoff game without Conley on his roster for the first time since May 1, 2006. Conley hasn’t played in any of Memphis’ postseason games in his years with the Grizzlies, but there’s still the obvious irony how they’re back in the playoffs and one of the most beloved players in team history will be wearing the opposing uniform.
– Keep an eye out: Ja Morant of Memphis has 73 points in his first two career playoff games (excluding the West play-in game last season, which the NBA technically doesn’t count as a post-season competition). Only George Mikan (75) had more.
– INJURY WATCH: Jazz G Donovan Mitchell tallied 25 points in 25-1 / 2 minutes in Game 2, his first game in nearly six weeks with an ankle injury.
– THE PRESSURE IS ACTIVATED: Utah. The Jazz – okay, without Mitchell for this game – struggled to keep the Grizzlies away on their only previous trip to Memphis this season.
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