NBA Playoffs: Has a Team Ever Won a Series After Trailing 3-0?

The NBA Playoffs always make for exciting storylines and incredible feats. From the 1984 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics to the 2016 championship series between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, fans likely have epic memories from watching the league’s postseason.

So, since there have been so many heroic performances, has a team ever won a series after trailing 3-0? 

Here’s your answer.

There has never been a team to win an NBA playoff series after trailing 3-0

The NBA Playoffs logo during a game in 2017.
The NBA Playoff logo on Utah Jazz chairs before their game against the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 8, 2017. | Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Despite all the legendary comebacks throughout NBA playoff history, there has never been a team to win a series after trailing 3-0.

A few squads have come close. The New York Knicks trailed the Rochester Royals 3-0 in the 1951 NBA Finals and eventually came back to tie it 3-3, but the Royals won the series in seven games. The same happened in the 1994 Western Conference semifinals when the Denver Nuggets trailed Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz before the Jazz eventually won 4-3, as well as the 2003 first round series between Portland Trail Blazers and Dirk Nowitzki’s victorious Dallas Mavericks.

Despite no one ever completing the 3-0 comeback, there have been 13 occasions in which teams have rallied after trailing 3-1.

The Nuggets did it most recently, accomplishing it twice in the 2020 bubble. The Cavaliers are the only team to do it in the NBA Finals, as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving led them to their comeback over the Warriors in 2016.

Has it been accomplished in other sports?

There hasn’t been an NBA team to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0. But multiple NHL teams have accomplished it.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Detroit Red Wings in the first three games of the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals, but they won the next four contests to clinch the series in seven games. The New York Islanders also fell behind 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 quarterfinals before winning in seven, and the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins in a similar fashion during the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

The most recent occasion took place in 2014 when the Los Angeles Kings fell behind to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference first round before winning the series 4-3.

In the MLB, the Boston Red Sox trailed their rival, the New York Yankees, 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS, but they rallied to win in seven games thanks to David Ortiz’s heroic efforts. Boston then won the World Series 4-0 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Manny Ramirez won World Series MVP.

The NBA has yet to see a team pull off the unthinkable, but other sports have proven that it’s possible.

There’s a first time for everything.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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