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Playoffs 2020

NBA Playoffs: Teams to come back from 3-1 series deficit in postseason history

The Denver Nuggets' 2020 postseason will go down in the history books.

After becoming the 12th team and 10th different franchise in NBA Playoffs history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Utah Jazz, they did it for a second time in the Conference Semifinals against the LA Clippers.

The 3-1 comeback against the Clippers helps them book their fourth Conference Finals appearance in franchise history and the first since 2009.

With their comeback, teams are now 13-244 all-time when facing a 3-1 series deficit. Only one of those 13 instances came in the NBA Finals.

Here's when, where and how all of these comebacks happened.

Denver Nuggets, 2020

Opponent and round: LA Clippers, Western Conference Semifinals

The comeback against the Clippers makes the Nuggets the only franchise in NBA history to comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in the same postseason. The win improved their record to 6-0 when facing elimination in the 2020 playoffs.

This historic feat helped them joined the likes of Boston and Houston as the other organisations to comeback from a 3-1 series deficit more than once. On the other hand, the Clippers become the third franchsie (Philadelphia, Phoenix) to blow a 3-1 lead twice (also in 2015).

Denver Nuggets, 2020

Opponent and round: Utah Jazz, Western Conference First Round

Headlined by the high-scoring duel between Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, Game 7 of this series was a low-scoring affair, with the final score being 80-78.

This comeback is one of three to occur in the first round of the postseason and it's the first time the Nuggets have achieved the feat.

Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016

Opponent and round: Golden State Warriors, NBA Finals

The only time in NBA history that a team has come back from 3-1 in the championship series.

The Cavaliers won their first championship in franchise history and brought the first pro sports title to Cleveland in 52 years.

Golden State Warriors, 2016

Opponent and round: Oklahoma City Thunder, Western Conference Finals

After winning an NBA record 73 games in the regular season, the Warriors' season was on the line. By completing the comeback, the Warriors advanced to their second consecutive NBA Finals.

It is one of three 3-1 comebacks to be achieved in the Conference Finals of the playoffs.

Houston Rockets, 2015

Opponent and round: LA Clippers, Western Conference Semifinals

The Rockets are one of only three teams in NBA history to complete this improbable comeback twice. They did it first in 1995 as the defending champions against the Phoenix Suns.

Their comeback against the Clippers was highlighted by a Game 6 come-from-behind win where Houston stunned Los Angeles 40-15 in the fourth quarter, thus erasing a 19-point deficit to eventually win, 119-107.

Phoenix Suns, 2006

Opponent and round: Los Angeles Lakers, Western Conference First Round

After losing Game 4 in heartbreaking fashion, courtesy of a game-winner from Kobe Bryant, the Suns came together and dominated the next three games. They won the final three games of the series by an average margin of 18.7 points.

That postseason, the Suns advanced to the Conference Finals for the second season in a row. However, they lost once again, this time to Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

The Suns are one of only two teams to have been on both sides of a 3-1 comeback. In fact, they are one of only three teams to have blown a 3-1 lead twice (1970, 1995).

Detroit Pistons, 2003

Opponent and round: Orlando Magic, Eastern Conference First Round

Through four games, the Pistons had no answer for Trach McGrady, who had averaged 36.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals on 51.6% shooting from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc.

The final three games, however, were a different story.

The Pistons turned up their defence, holding the Hall of Famer to 25.7 points per game on a far less efficient 36.1% shooting from the field.

In 2003, Detroit would make its first Conference Finals appearance since 1991. It would also be the first of a franchise-record six straight Conference Finals appearances (2003-08).

Miami Heat, 1997

Opponent and round: New York Knicks, Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Heat-Knicks rivalry of the late 1990s, which saw the two teams face each other in four consecutive postseasons, tipped off in historic fashion.

The first four games were close encounters, decided only by an average margin of six points. The Heat found their offensive touch later in the series, though, and won the last three games by an average of 10.3 points. The Heat went from averaging 79.0 points in the first four games to scoring 97.3 in the final three games.

Houston Rockets, 1995

Opponent and round: Phoenix Suns, Western Conference Semifinals

As the defending champions, the Rockets were set to get eliminated, but as they had done all season long, they battled to the very end. This comeback came right down to the last seconds - 7.1, to be precise - with Mario Elie's famous "kiss of death" serving as the knockout punch.

This was the first time that a team had won two games on the road while completing a 3-1 comeback. That happened because the Rockets were the sixth seed, the lowest-ever to be crowned champion.

Boston Celtics, 1981

Opponent and round: Philadelphia 76ers, Eastern Conference Finals

En route to the first championship of the Larry Bird era in Boston during the 1980s, the Celtics made history by becoming only the second team ever to go on to win a title after coming back from 3-1 in a series.

After a series that was capped off by Bird's bank shot, the Celtics would advance to the NBA Finals and defeat the Rockets in six games.

Here's 1981 Finals MVP Cedric Maxwell talking about the epic series against the 76ers:

Washington Bullets, 1979

Opponent and round: San Antonio Spurs, Eastern Conference Finals

This was the first instance in NBA history that the defending champion was down 3-1, but the Bullets decided to flip that around and become the third team ever to come back from being 3-1 down.

The Bullets won Game 7 by overcoming George Gervin's 42-point night, as well as a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, behind 37 points from Bobby Dandridge.

Los Angeles Lakers, 1970

Opponent and round: Phoenix Suns, Western Division Semifinals

In just their second season in the NBA, the Suns made some noise. They had the Western Conference Champions - the Los Angeles Lakers - with their backs against the walls. Unfortunately, they couldn't complete the series and advance.

Boston Celtics, 1968

Opponent and round: Philadelphia 76ers, Eastern Division Finals.

Led by the mighty Wilt Chamberlain, the defending champions had the Celtics dynasty down 3-1 in the East. Unfortunately for them, another chapter was written in one of the most famous rivalries in NBA Playoffs history, as Boston became the first team ever to make the unlikely comeback.

The Celtics went on to win the 1968 NBA title, their 10th title in franchise history.

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