Over time, 93% of teams that lead 2-0 in the NBA playoffs win their series. In the NBA Finals, it’s 87%, with 31 cases that led to a successful title and only four that went the other way.
Since 1980, a team that advances 2-0 in the NBA Finals, 2-0, has won 18 of 20 times. Of those 18, only one series has gone to seven games and eight to six games (three to five, with six scans).
These are the examples on which Milwaukee can base its hopes.
2016: Cleveland v Golden State in Sept
It looks like the first entry on this list should include the caveat, “But they had LeBron.”
Which, fair enough, despite the Bucks having their own MVP, and he delivered in Game 2, so it’s fair to wonder why the Bucks couldn’t replicate what the Cavaliers did in 2016.
Not only did the Golden State Warriors world team that broke an NBA 73-9 record that season take a 2-0 lead, they did so with two blowouts – 104-89 and 110-77. That’s a combined value of 48 cushion points.
And not only this, but after Cleveland won Game 3, 120-90, the Warriors won Game 4 108-97 for a 3-1 series lead.
It is perhaps the most famous deficit in the history of sport. Cleveland won the next three games by 15, 14 and 4 points respectively, with James’ sensational chase block as a lasting highlight.
Oh look, here is Giannis do the same sort of thing in that NBA Finals.
2006: Miami against Dallas in six
Dirk Nowitzki got his ring five years later against that same Heat team, which makes it easy to forget that the Mavericks lost a 2-0 lead against a Heat team with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal.
The Mavericks got 32 points from future Buck Jason Terry in Game 1, a 90-80 win, and Dirk scored 26 and 16 in a 99-85 win in Game 2. But the Heat actually won this. series in six games – and three of those wins were by a grand total of 6 points.
The fondly remembered former Buck Gary Payton broke the tie with 9 seconds left, and Wade added the last of his 42 points with 1.4 seconds left at the free throw line, then jumped to interrupt a potential winning lane. from Nowitzki entering to Josh Howard. This gave the Heat a 98-96 victory in the very first game of the NBA Finals in Miami.
The Heat followed with a 98-74 scraping, then took command of the series with a 101-100 thriller. Wade’s two free throws with 1.9 seconds left tipped the scales for the Heat. Wade finished with 43.
Certainly the caveat here is that the series format at the time was 2-3-2, so Miami had a chance to take the series lead by only winning home games.
Miami closed the game in Dallas with a 95-92 victory in Game 6. Terry’s 3 points just before the buzzer wasn’t good.
The NBA, which changed to 2-3-2 in 1985, reverted to 2-2-1-1-1 in 2014.
1977: Portland against Philadelphia in six
Once again, the Blazers won this one in 6 despite falling behind at Philly, 107-101 and 107-89.
The defending champions 76ers were looking for their third ring in four years, but the Blazers had other ideas.
The first two meetings in Portland were breakouts: 129-107 and 130-98. Back in Philly, the game was closer, but Bill Walton had 24 rebounds and Bob Gross scored 25 points to counter Julius Erving’s 37.
Then came a 109-107 winner in Portland, where Irving scored 40 but Lionel Hollins (20), Bill Walton (20, with 23 rebounds) and Gross (24) all crossed the 20 point mark.
The Sixers had three shots on the tied final possession – one each from Erving, World B. Free and George McGinnis – but none came in.
1969: Boston vs. Los Angeles Lakers in Seven
It’s a classic titanic clash, although Boston’s aging was only 48-34 that year and held the fourth seed in the East, while the Lakers went 55-27 and had held the first seed in the West.
LA squeaked in Game 1 thanks to 53 points from Jerry West and a basket from Wilt Chamberlain with 23 seconds left to give LA a 120-118 victory. West became the first and only NBA Finals MVP for a losing team.
After the Lakers won Game 2, 118-112, he turned around. But Boston scratched to tie with a 111-105 win in Game 3 and an 89-88 win. Sam Jones hit the winning basket after Elgin Baylor was ruled out of bounds (Baylor felt pushed) on the previous possession.
Back on the other side, West scored another 39 points and the Lakers took a 3-2 lead with a 117-104 victory, but Boston won the game 6, 99-90 and then went on to become the first. road team to win in Game 7 of an NBA Finals with a 108-106 victory.
Future Bucks coach Don Nelson threw a desperate shot to beat the shot clock and give Boston a 105-102 lead. The Lakers hit a basket just before the buzzer to make it a 2-point game, but the Celtics had won the series.