By Ryan Mayer
The Western Conference Finals haven’t exactly gone as expected thus far. The Warriors, coming off a historic 73-win season have fallen behind the Oklahoma City Thunder two games to one heading into Game 4 tonight in Oklahoma City. While a loss tonight won’t knock the Warriors out of the playoffs, it would put them on the precipice of a cliff that’s only been overcome a couple of times in NBA history.
Since the NBA went to a best-of-seven format in Conference Finals in the 1958 season, there have been just nine teams to come back from being down 3-1 in a series in the playoffs. However, of those nine times, only three of those have come in the Conference Final/Division Final round and all of those comebacks have been in the Eastern Conference.
The three teams to have come back from down 3-1 are the Celtics over the Sixers twice (1981 and 1968) and the Bullets over the Spurs in 1979. It’s been 35 years since we’ve seen a comeback from down 3-1 in a series to win. Furthermore, of the 51 times that a conference final series has featured a 3-1 lead, only seven of those series went the full seven games.
The most recent example of a team forcing a Game 7 after being down three games to one is the 2000 Portland Trailblazers, who trailed the Lakers before winning Game 5 on the road, Game 6 at home and leading 71-58 heading to the fourth quarter in Game 7 before giving up a 31-point quarter to the Lakers and falling by five, 89-84.
The good news for Warriors fans in the event of a loss tonight? They have home-court advantage, which means Game 5 will be played in Oakland. Why is that good? Both the ’81 Celtics and ’79 Bullets played Game 5 on their home floor, won that game and continued on to win the series. However, considering coming back from down three games to one has happened just 5 percent of the time in the conference finals and not in the last 35 years, the Warriors need to win tonight. It’s not impossible, just highly unlikely.
Game 4 is set for tip tonight at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.
(All statistics and results gathered using Basketball Reference’s playoffs database)
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.