The Cavaliers might lose this historic distinction to the Celtics

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by BECK DIEFENBACH/Getty Images
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by BECK DIEFENBACH/Getty Images /

The Cleveland Cavaliers did the miraculous in 2016. For a franchise, (and, honestly, a city) that had known so much heartache without a championship, going down 3-1 to the 73-win Golden State Warriors felt like the same old way for the Cavs to go down.

Then LeBron James and Kyrie Irving came alive, the defense stepped up its intensity, and Ty Lue pulled out all of the tricks he had. Add in a Draymond Green suspension, an Andrew Bogut injury and some inexplicable lineup decisions from Steve Kerr, and the stage was set for a miracle.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, down 3-1 in the NBA Finals and without homecourt advantage, won three straight games, including a Game 7 at home, to win the first title in franchise history. It took the greatest offensive play in team history (Kyrie Irving’s shot) and the greatest defensive one (“The Block” is also an all-time play in NBA history, period).

Given the level of difficulty, the historic significance and the Finals stage, it was clearly the greatest playoff series comeback in the history of the NBA. Monday night, however, the Boston Celtics may knock Cleveland off of its perch.

In all 76 years of NBA history, a team has never come back from a 3-0 series deficit. We actually went over some of the statistical details in a piece about LeBron James and the Lakers a week ago; now it’s the Boston Celtics actually defying history.

After a Game 6 win in Miami that featured one of the wildest plays in NBA history, a Derrick White tip-in at the buzzer to give the Celtics the win, Game 7 will be in Boston on Monday night. If the Celtics win, as they are favored to do, they will become the first team ever to come back from a 3-0 series deficit.

Just to force a Game 7 is rare enough; it’s only happened three times in league history. To do and get the final game at home might just be the nail in Miami’s coffin, though. Boston has an excellent shot to pull it off.

They always fit the profile of a team that could, as they were a substantially better team than the Heat all season, had homecourt advantage, and rely heavily on 3-point shots, which is a high-variance strategy. What’s been so impressive is that Boston has largely come back through their defense, which has strangled Miami’s attack.

The Heat are a really good team, Jimmy Butler is a top-10 player, and Erik Spoelstra is the best coach in the business. They could absolutely still win this and silence the Celtics’ place in history.

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If the Celtics pull this off, however, they won’t just be memorable: they will be historic. Just like the 2004 Boston Red Sox, the Celtics will be discussed forever as the team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit. If they do so, and even more so if they go on to win the NBA Finals, they will be remembered for the greatest playoff comeback in NBA history. Sorry, Cleveland.