The Los Angeles Lakers dominated the first two games of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, winning Game 1 by 18 points and Game 2 by 10. Carried by Jimmy Butler's 40-point triple-double on Sunday, the Heat managed to escape a 3-0 deficit.
Can the Heat continue to turn the series around?
Although it's rare for teams to not go on to be crowned champions after entering Game 4 of the Finals with a 2-1 lead – like the Lakers have – it is not impossible.
In the last 20 NBA seasons, there have been 11 teams to claim victory after taking a 2-1 lead in the Finals. Only five teams have been able to overcome a 2-1 series deficit to win the championship.
LAKERS VS. HEAT: Can Jimmy Butler do it again, or will L.A. regain control?
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James reacts to a call during Game 3 of the NBA Finals. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
Here's a look at how 2-1 series leads have played out in recent years in the NBA Finals:
In 2000, the Los Angeles Lakers led the series against the Indiana Pacers 2-1 and went on to win the title in six games. L.A. also secured titles after jumping out to 2-1 Finals leads in 2001 against the Philadelphia 76ers (won in five); in 2009 against the Orlando Magic (another five-game victory); and once more in 2010 against the Boston Celtics (a seven-game classic).
In 2003, the San Antonio Spurs took a 2-1 Finals lead against the New Jersey Nets and turned it into a championship after six games. They replicated the formula in title wins in 2005 against the Detroit Pistons (seven games) and again in 2014 against the Heat (five games).
Others who sealed the deal up 2-1
The Pistons have one title in the 21st century, which they captured after jumping out to a 2-1 lead against the Lakers in the 2004 Finals. They would win Game 4 and close out L.A. in five games.
In 2008, the Celtics took a 2-1 lead on the Lakers en route to a six-game series win. That championship was Boston's 17th, but the storied franchise's first since 1986.
In 2012, Miami jumped out to a 2-1 series lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder and kept the momentum going in a five-game victory that marked LeBron James' first championship.
Most recently, the 2019 Toronto Raptors came out victorious over the Golden State Warriors in six after leading the series 2-1.
The fantastic four
Among the teams to prove that a 2-1 lead is not insurmountable is the Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
In 2006, the Mavericks entered Game 4 up 2-1 but failed to win another game in the series against the Heat. The tables turned in 2011, however, as the Heat blew their early 2-1 lead and lost to the Mavericks in six.
In 2013, the Heat found themselves down 2-1 in the Finals again, this time to the Spurs, following a blowout Game 3 loss. They would rally and win their second consecutive championship in a dramatic seven games.
The banged-up 2015 Cleveland Cavaliers gave up their early 2-1 lead, falling in six games to the Golden State Warriors. That title was Golden State's first since 1975.
The scenario was flipped the next season when the Cavaliers roared back from 2-1 down – and eventually 3-1, perhaps you've heard – against the record-setting 73-win Warriors. The title was the Cavaliers' first, and James' most recent.
Contact Analis Bailey at [email protected] or on Twitter @analisbailey.
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