Posted on April 19, 2019, by Travis Pulver
Fans want great basketball in the playoffs, but they also like the drama and intrigue that comes with a competitive series. They want to be entertained—good basketball combined with a healthy dose of drama and intrigue is entertaining.
Nothing builds drama and intrigue as a good comeback can—like when a team down 0-2 in a series comes back to win. There are four such teams left in the 2019 postseason. But do any of them have a shot of pulling off a comeback?
Oddsmakers are not real high on any of the three underdogs winning their respective series as they head into Game Three (via BetOnline.ag):
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- Indiana-Boston: Pacers +675; Celtics -900
- Oklahoma City-Portland: Thunder +175; Trail Blazers -205
- Utah-Houston: Jazz +640; Rockets -855
- Detroit-Milwaukee: Pistons +2200; Bucks -20,000
Convert those odds to a probability and the Thunder appears to have a decent shot (36.36 percent; Utah’s is 13.51 and Indiana’s 12.9). Coincidentally, Oklahoma City is favored in Game Three Thursday night (-335; -7.5 points).
Should the Thunder win, it would not be hard to see oddsmakers swing the odds back closer to them. But can anyone complete the comeback and win their series?
History says, probably not.
There have been 282 best of seven series in NBA playoff history. Of those 282, there have been a total of 20 occurrences where a team fell behind 0-2 and still won the series. In the last three seasons, it has happened four times:
- 2016 Western Conference First Round: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Clippers
- 2016 NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
- 2017 Eastern Conference First Round: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
- 2018 Eastern Conference Final: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Six have accomplished the feat since 2012. But can anyone achieve it this year?
It is hard to see Indiana getting it done. They have been in each game and had Game Two in hand before an epic collapse in the fourth quarter. But there always seems to be something that goes awry for the Pacers. Their defense will make each game competitive, but they don’t have the offense to win four of the next five games.
Utah is not playing terrible basketball. They have been outplayed by a Rockets team that really wants a rematch with the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. Barring an injury to James Harden, there is no chance the Jazz pull off the comeback.
Anyone that puts money on the Pistons to beat the Warriors—well, they deserve to lose their money. So, that just leaves the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Game One was close, but Game Two was not. However, while Paul George and Russell Westbrook haven’t necessarily played poorly, they haven’t played as well as they can or as well as they did against Portland during the regular season. But the Thunder swept the regular season series with the Jazz, 4-0, with George and Westbrook combining for 67.5 points a game.
So far, through two playoff games, they have averaged just 45.5 points a game.
If George and Westbrook can wake up, the Thunder may be able to pull off the 0-2 comeback. But with how they have looked, it isn’t something you should bet the farm (or even a bale of hay) on.