The Portland Trail Blazers face an impossible challenge ahead of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals versus the Golden State Warriors. The two-time NBA Champions won the first three games of the series and hold an advantage that no team in league history has overcome. The NBA is in fact, the only professional league in the United States with Playoff series of seven games in which no team has managed to reverse a 3-0 deficit.
MORE: What to watch for in Blazers-Warriors Game 4
Only 11 times has a franchise overcome a 3-1 deficit, with the Cleveland Cavaliers being the last to do it, defeating the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. Here are the 11 scenarios in which that occured:
- Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals, 1968
- Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns in the Western Finals, 1970
- Washington Bullets vs. San Antonio Spurs in the Eastern Finals, 1979
- Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Finals, 1981
- Houston Rockets vs. Phoenix Suns in the Western Semifinals, 1995
- Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks in the Eastern Semifinals, 1997
- Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic in the East First Round, 2003
- Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers in the West First Round, 2006
- Houston Rockets vs. Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Semifinals, 2015
- Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Finals, 2016
- Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, 2016
If advancing after a 3-1 disadvantage is a feat reserved for few teams, chasing a 3-0 deficit is still an impossible challenge that the Blazers will attempt to achieve. In fact, only three teams in NBA history have even managed to force a Game 7, with one of them being Portland. Even after forcing a Game 7, no teams could close the deal.
1951 NBA Finals: New York Knicks vs. Rochester Royals
In the fifth season in the history of the NBA, Rochester (now the Sacramento Kings) won their first and only title. After eliminating the Minneapolis Lakers in the Western Finals, a triumph that allowed them to disrupt a sequence of five Lakers' championships in six years, the Kings went on to face the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.
In it's first postseason crossover, the story went well for Rochester with three wins in three games: a 27-point win at home in game 1, a stunning win by 15 in Game 2 and a tight seven-point win in Game 3, the first game in the Big Apple. But the Knicks reacted by protecting their home court, winning three in a row to tie the series. However, the comeback fell short - on April 21, Rochester closed out the series with a 79-75 victory to put an end to the Knicks 3-0-comeback hopes.
1994 Western Conference Semifinals: Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz
Denver seemed destined to become the team of miracles. After finishing 8th in the West, the postseason gave them a tough matchup against the Seattle Supersonics, the top team in the conference. Seattle, led by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, had taken a 2-0 lead after the first two games of a best-of-five series.
But the Nuggets did not give up - they took Game 3 at home, won Game 4 in overtime and returned to Seattle to beat the Sonics in OT. Dikembe Mutombo dominated the paint with 15 rebounds and eight blocks. Robert Pack (23 points), Biston Dele (17p, 19r) and LaPhonso Ellis (19 points) led the Nuggets in scoring. Denver, in addition to overcoming the two game disadvantage, became the first No. 8 seed to eliminate a No. 1 seed.
The Western Semifinals seemed like a similar script - the Utah Jazz, who had finished in 5th place in the West and eliminated the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, won by the first two games against the Nuggets behind big games from Karl Malone. In Game 3 on the road, Jeff Hornacek was the leading scorer with 27 points, Malone scored 26 and John Stockton had 24 points and 13 assists in a Jazz two-point win.
Another comeback seemed impossible but Denver wasn't going down without a fight. They won Game 4 at home by one, took Game 5 on the road by eight and tied the series in Game 6 despite a 31-point, 15-rebound double-double from Malone. In Game 7, Utah put an end to the Nuggets' run as Malone dominated again with 31 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in a 91-81 victory.
2003 Western Conference First Round: Portland Trail Blazers vs Dallas Mavericks
Portland knows what it's like to knock on the door of history. As a No. 6 seed in the West, they faced the Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. A team made up of Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph, Arvydas Sabonis and Bonzi Wells, with Scottie Pippen and Ruben Patterson off the bench, came close to acheiving the unthinkable feat.
The series was not easy - with both stars on fire, the Mavericks took the first two games at the American Airlines Center in Texas. They even stole Game 3 at the Rose Garden in Oregon. Nowitzki and Nash were brilliant during the first three contests and Portland seemed doomed.
But the Blazers responded thanks to Zach Randolph, who stepped up in all three of the Blazers victories. He led his team in scoring with 25, 22 and 21 points to tie the series at 3-3. It was only Randolph's second year int he league but he had already become a key player and cornerstone for the Blazers.
In Game 7 in Dallas, the Blazers split their scoring among six different players in double figures, but Nowitzki's 31 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist was too much for Portland to handle. Nash finished with 21 points, seven assists and six boards while Michael Finley contributed 14 points and their sixth man Nick Van Exel went for 26 off the bench.
The Mavericks won 107-95 to eliminate the Blazers in the first round. Dallas beat the Sacramento Kings in seven games in the Conference Semifinals before falling to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals, manned by the famous trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili with Gregg Popovich as head coach.