This Stat Proves LeBron Must Make History If the Cavs Are to Beat Boston

During his 15 years in the NBA, LeBron James has rescued seemingly lost causes almost at will, but dragging the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Boston Celtics might be a step too far even for him.

The three-time NBA champion recorded yet another triple-double in Game Two but the Cavs will take to home court on Saturday night with the odds firmly stacked against them and the weight of history firmly on their shoulders.

Robert Horry is the only player to have come back from 2-0 down in a series three times in NBA history—in 1994 and in 1995 as the Houston Rockets overcame the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference semifinals and in 2007 as the San Antonio Spurs beat the New Orleans Hornets 4-2 at the same stage.

GettyImages-958991502 LeBron James looks on in the second half against the Boston Celtics during Game Two of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2018 in Boston. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

LeBron has done it twice—leading Cleveland to its first conference title by defeating the Detroit Pistons 4-2 in 2007 and in 2016 when the Cavs became the first team in NBA Finals history to recover from a 3-1 deficit—and will have to emulate Horry if the Cavs are to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

The odds, however, are not in his favor. In the history of the NBA, teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series have gone 281-19 overall, a win percentage of 93.7.

As if that wasn’t a bleak enough picture for the Cavs, only one other team apart from them in 2007 has overcome a 2-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals in the league’s history. In 1971, the Baltimore Bullets lost the first two games of the series against the New York Knicks at the Madison Square Garden but prevailed 4-3 in the series.

Conversely, comebacks have become more frequent in the NBA.

Since the NBA switched to best-of-seven first-round in 2003, teams have come back from 0-2 down a total of 12 times between 2004 and 2018, compared to just seven times between 1969 and 2003.

In 2004, the Lakers defeated the Spurs 4-2 in the Western Conference semifinals, while a year later the Wizards overcame the same deficit against the Bulls in the first-round series, and the Mavericks defeated the Rockets in seven games after coming back from 2-0 down.

A year later, Dallas relinquished a two-game lead against Miami in the NBA Finals, while San Antonio needed seven games to dispose of New Orleans in 2008 after losing the first two meetings, and the Thunder lost the first two games to the Spurs in the 2012 Western Conference Finals before sweeping the next four. The Clippers blew a 2-0 lead against Memphis and Portland in 2013 and 2016 respectively. 

The Cavs’ can also take solace in the fact that on six of those occasions—Washington, Cleveland and San Antonio in 2007, the Thunder in 2012, Memphis and Portland—the lower ranked team was the one that overcame a 2-0 deficit.