MILWAUKEE – A team has never come back from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series. Only three teams in the NBA have ever come back from 3-0 to force a Game 7. But that’s precisely what the Milwaukee Bucks are trying to do at 6 p.m. at home tonight against the Chicago Bulls.
Expect a lively crowd cheering for the Bucks, not the Bulls, whose fans had made the drive up from Chicago the other two home playoff games. This one, however, should be different. Bucks fans have hope now, after winning the last two games.
If Milwaukee can force a Game 7, more history isn’t in their favor. Only four teams in the major sports have won a series after being down 3-0 – three teams in the NHL and one on Major League Baseball.
The last playoff series win for the Bucks came in 2001, when they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals behind the Big 3 of Ray Allen, Glenn ‘Big Dog’ Robinson and Sam Cassell.
The Philadelphia 76ers won the series controversially in seven games.
Even ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote about the refereeing in the series. Here’s what he said in ESPN the Mag:
“If crooked NBA playoff series were heavyweight boxers, then the 2002 Western finals (Lakers-Kings) was George Foreman and the 2001 Eastern finals (Bucks-Sixers) was Earnie Shavers. Translation: People remember only George, but Earnie was almost as memorable. To briefly recap, Philly’s wins in Games 1 and 4 swung on a controversial lane violation and two egregious no-calls. The Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Glenn Robinson, one of Milwaukee’s top-two scorers, didn’t even attempt a free throw until Game 5. Bucks coach George Karl and star Ray Allen were fined a combined $85,000 after the series for claiming the NBA rigged it. In that game, Milwaukee’s best big man, Scott Williams, was charged with a flagrant foul but not thrown out, only to be suspended, improbably, for Game 7.
The defining game: When Philly stole a must-win Game 4 in Milwaukee despite an atrocious performance from Iverson (10-for-32 shooting), helped by a 2-to-1 free-throw advantage and a host of late calls. How one-sided was it? When an official called a harmless touch foul to send Sam Cassell to the line with two seconds left and the Bucks trailing by seven (maybe the all-time we-need-to-pad-the-free-throw-stats-so-they-don’t-seem-so-lopsided-afterward call), the subsequent sarcastic standing ovation nearly morphed into the first-ever sarcastic riot. And this was Milwaukee, the most easygoing city in the country! Nobody remembers this. The real loser was Allen, who exploded for 190 points in the series, including a record nine threepointers in do-or-die Game 6. Nobody remembers this, either. Even I didn’t remember it. Crap.”