By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The city of Boston is no stranger to miraculous comebacks in recent years. Whether it was the Patriots overcoming a 28-3 deficit against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI or the Red Sox rallying from a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees in 2004, we have all seen teams from this region defy the odds.
After the Celtics dropped their first two games at home against the Chicago Bulls, the C’s are now the ones facing a steep uphill climb in their quest to win a playoff series for the first time in the Brad Stevens era. How much is the deck stacked against the Green? A look at NBA playoff history indicates that the Celtics will need to play their best basketball of the season and probably have lady luck on their side to overcome the deficit.
NBA teams are 17-260 all-time when facing a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, recovering just 6.1 percent of the time when falling into that hole. The 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers are the last team to pull off that comeback, fighting back from a 2-0 and a 3-1 hole on their way to beating the Golden State Warriors and winning the NBA Finals.
It’s not fair to compare the 2017 Celtics to those Cavaliers from a talent standpoint, but the truth is they are in a much worse predicament that the Cavs were in that series. Cleveland dropped their first two games to Golden State on the road, not at home like Boston.
In fact, only 31 teams in NBA history have dropped the first two games of a best-of-seven series on their home floor. Three of those squads (2005 Mavs, 1994 Rockets, 1969 Lakers) were able to right the ship and win those matchups in seven games, the tall task that now lies in front of these Celtics.
“We need to take care of the stuff we can control,” C’s forward Crowder said of the team’s impending trip to Chicago. “Rebounding, turnovers, things like that. We have to take care of that. I don’t think it’s anything bigger than that. I just think if we take care of the stuff that we as a unit can control, we’ll put ourselves in a much better position to win the game.”
“We have to get ready to play great on Friday,” Stevens added. “That’s what our focus has to be; we don’t have any other choice. And that’s what we said in the locker room, and that’s it. We’ll dissect the film, we’ll go through it, we’ll figure out what we didn’t do well and there’ll be quite a lot, and go from there.”
The Celtics have proven capable of winning big road games this year ( at Golden State in March) and were tied for the best road record (23-18) in the Eastern Conference, but the Green have not won at the United Center since late 2014. The Bulls are a strong team at home (25-16) and are a tougher defensive team in their own arena as well, setting the bar extremely high for a Celtics team that still has not won a single road game in the postseason for Brad Stevens.
Boston will need to win two games at the United Center to advance and become just the second No. 1 seed in NBA history (Phoenix Suns) to recover from a 2-0 deficit in the first round. The road does not look as impossible on the surface for the Celtics as it did with the Red Sox in 2004 or the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, but it’s not too far off.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.