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Teams That Turned Around 3-1 Losing Series in Playoff History

The NBA playoffs are a separate championship and have great victories in their history. Rare epic comebacks have occurred in best-of-seven series, but they showed that the “impossible” can happen in league basketball. In just 13 occasions has a team overcome a 3-1 loss in a postseason matchup.
In the current edition of the NBA, four teams want to make history and turn their clashes around: New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, washington wizards It is Memphis Grizzlies.

Boston was the first team in league history to come back from a 3-1 draw against Philadelphia 76ersin 1968. Still as Washington Bulletsthe Wizards also achieved the feat, in 1979, against san antonio spurs.


In the 2020/21 season playoffs, the Washington Wizards try to advance to the next stage in the series led 3-1 by the 76ers. The Boston Celtics are one defeat away from being eliminated by the brooklyn nets, but still alive. In the other two matches, the New York Knicks have been beaten by atlanta hawksand the Memphis Grizzlies measure strength against the utah jazz.

The Celtics play this Tuesday, 01, while the Knicks, Wizards and Grizzlies enter the court on Wednesday, 2. Despite the complicated situation, the four franchises can repeat historic marks of the NBA.

Table of Contents

See the teams that managed to come back from the 3-1 defeats in the playoffs

1968: Boston Celtics – Eastern Division Finals (now Eastern Conference)

The Boston Celtics were the first franchise in NBA history to clinch a major playoff series comeback while being one loss away from postseason elimination. With two wins at home to the Philadelphia 76ers (Games 5 and 7), the franchise sought the historic turnaround in the match and advanced to the Finals to win its tenth NBA title. The duel featured the clash between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

New Year’s Eve Games


Game 5: 76ers 104 x 122 Celtics

Game 6: Celtics 114 x 106 76ers

Game 7: 76ers 96 x 100 Celtics

1970 – Los Angeles Lakers – Western Division Semifinals (now Western Conference)

In just their second season in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns managed to ‘bother’ and reach the semifinals of the West Division and forced the Los Angeles Lakers, who had won two West titles, to react in the series. The Californian franchise won Games 5, 6, and 7 and won the series 4-3. In the Finals, however, the Lakers were defeated by the New York Knicks. It was the franchise’s third consecutive runner-up.


New Year’s Eve Games

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Game 5: Lakers 138 x 121 Suns

Game 6: Suns 93 v 104 Lakers

Game 7: Lakers 129 x 94 Suns


1979: Washington Bullets – Eastern Conference Finals

That year, the San Antonio Spurs were still part of the Eastern Conference. It was the first time in NBA history that the current champion lost by 3 to 1. The Bullets reversed the situation and became the third team to recover in the playoff series.

New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: Bullets 107 v 103 Spurs

Game 6: Spurs 100 x 108 Bullets


Game 7: Bullets 107 v 105 Spurs

1981: Boston Celtics – Eastern Conference Finals

Once again the Celtics sought a reaction after the 3-1 deficit also for the Philadelphia 76ers. In the rematch, Boston was once again victorious after coming back with two wins at home and one away, in three clashes decided on the details.

New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: Celtics 111 x 109 76ers


Game 6: 76ers 98 x 100 Celtics

Game 7: Celtics 91 v 90 76ers

1995: Houston Rockets – Western Conference Semifinals

14 years after the last historic upset, the Houston Rockets became the fourth team to achieve the mark, in the campaign that marked their second NBA title – consecutively. The defending champions were one game away from being eliminated, but reversed the series against the Phoenix Suns, with the right to overtime in Game 5.

New Year’s Eve Games


Game 5: Suns 97 v 103 Rockets (Overtime)

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Game 6: Rockets 116 x 103 Suns

Game 7: Suns 114 v 115 Rockets

1997: Miami Heat – Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Heat was another franchise that reversed the defeat by 3 to 1. In 1997, Miami won the best-of-seven series against the New York Knicks and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The turning point was due to a historic confusion, known as the “big fight”, in Game 5, which ended with the suspension of a good part of the Knicks team for the remainder of the series. New York was without Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston and Charlie Ward in the sixth match.


turnaround games

Game 5: Heat 96 v 81 Knicks
Game 6: Knicks 90 v 95 Heat
Game 7: Heat 101 v 90 Knicks

2003: Detroit Pistons – Eastern Conference First Round

Against the Orlando Magic, the Detroit Pistons lost 3-1 in the first four games of the series. The last three matches, however, featured key wins to advance to the East semifinals. In 2003, the Pistons made their first appearance in the Conference Finals since 1991 – the first of a record six consecutive appearances, until 2008. The franchise also eliminated the 76ers before being overcome by the Nets in the East Finals.

New Year’s Eve Games


Game 5: Pistons 98 x 67 Magic
Game 6: Magic 88 x 103 Pistons
Game 7: Pistons 108 x 93 Magic

2006: Phoenix Suns – Western Conference First Round

After the bitter defeat in Game 4 to the Los Angeles Lakers, with a basket by Kobe Bryant at the timer overflow, the Suns sought the reaction in the three consecutive confrontations and advanced to the semifinals of the West. In that pro-season, Phoenix advanced to the Conference Finals for the second consecutive season, but were defeated again, this time by the Dallas Mavericks.

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New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: Suns 114 x 97 Lakers
Game 6: Lakers 118 x 126 Suns
Game 7: Suns 121 v 90 Lakers


2015: Houston Rockets – Western Conference Semifinals

Once again in NBA history, the Rockets managed to turn a showdown after a 3-1 loss in the first four games. Against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Texan franchise relied on James Harden’s leadership to advance to the Western Conference Finals, when it was defeated 4-1 by the Golden State Warriors.

New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: Rockets 124 v 103 Clippers
Game 6: Clippers 107 v 119 Rockets
Game 7: Rockets 113 v 100 Clippers

2016: Golden State Warriors – Western Conference Finals

The 2016 playoffs featured two 3-1 upsets. In the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, 4-3 after losing in the first four clashes. Led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors won four straight.


New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: OKC 111 x 120 Warriors
Game 6: Warriors 108 v 101 OKC
Game 7: OKC 88 v 96 Warriors

2016: Cleveland Cavaliers – NBA Finals

For the first time in Finals history a franchise came back from a 3-1 loss, and it was LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. The team edged out the Golden State Warriors to two away wins to capture the Cavaliers’ first NBA title — also the first in professional sports for Cleveland in 52 years.

New Year’s Eve Games


Game 5: Warriors 97 x 112 Cavaliers

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Game 6: Cavaliers 115 x 101 Warriors

Game 7: Warriors 89 v 93 Cavaliers

2020: Denver Nuggets – Western Conference First Round

Against the Utah Jazz, the Denver Nuggets recovered from the 3-1 defeat and managed to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. It was the first of Denver’s two postseason comebacks.


New Year’s Eve Games

Game 5: Nuggets 117 x 107 Jazz
Game 6: Jazz 107 v 119 Nuggets
Game 7: Nuggets 80 x 78 Jazz

2020: Denver Nuggets – Western Conference Semifinals

This time against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets achieved an epic comeback to advance to the Western Conference Finals. It was the first time in history that a single franchise has recovered from a 3-1 lead in the same season. In the conference decision, Denver was defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers – who were the champion of the league.

New Year’s Eve Games


Game 5: Nuggets 111 v 105 Clippers
Game 6: Clippers 98 v 111 Nuggets
Game 7: Nuggets 104 v 89 Clippers

Teams That Turned Around 3-1 Losing Series in Playoff History

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