Mavs Hope to Defy Lowly Odds of Pulling an 0-3 Comeback

  • Across all of NBA history, no team has ever come back from an 0-3 hole
  • Only five NBA, NHL, and MLB teams came back from 0-3 to win a series
  • The 1942 Maple Leafs are the only team to come back from 0-3 in the championship
  • Sportsbook odds overestimate the likelihood of the Mavericks winning the Finals
Luka Dončić
Coming back from an 0-3 hole in best-of-seven series is next to impossible in professional sports. [Image:]

An unforgiving spot

There’s a saying in sports that “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” but the odds of pulling an 0-3 comeback in a best-of-seven series are near-infinite…in the wrong direction.

end the city’s second-longest championship drought

The Boston Celtics’ 106-99 Game 3 win on Wednesday over the Dallas Mavericks gave them a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals, which has historically been a kiss of death. A title would not only seal Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s first championship as professional players, but it would also end the city’s second-longest championship drought since the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox all existed.

So as that beautiful woman warms up her vocal cords, what are the odds of the Dallas Mavericks cementing a 0-3 comeback?

Odds of an 0-3 comeback 

Never once in the history of the NBA has a team rallied from an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series. 

Four times did a team battle back from an 0-3 hole to force a Game Seven, though all of those efforts ended in vain. The teams to do so included:

  • Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat (2023 Eastern Conference Finals)
  • Portland Trail Blazers vs. Dallas Mavericks (2003 Western Conference First Round)
  • Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz (1994 Western Conference semifinals)
  • New York Knicks vs. Rochester Royals (1951 NBA Finals)

Slightly more inspiration can be drawn from the ice. A whopping four teams were able to rally from 0-3 down, the most recent of which was the Los Angeles Kings against the San Jose Sharks in the 2014 Western Conference first round.

In baseball, only the Boston Red Sox were able to respond from an 0-3 hole, doing so in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees.

only five teams were able to defy the odds and capture an 0-3 comeback

So, across the major professional sports in North American that use best-of-seven formats, only five teams were able to defy the odds and capture an 0-3 comeback. Of those, only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs did so in a championship series.

Needless to say, championship contenders shouldn’t enter a series with the expectation of being able to lose three straight games and still win a championship. 

Sportsbooks’ input

Now, to the question that everyone asks in the era of widespread sports betting: What do the oddsmakers believe?

FanDuel sportsbook lists the Dallas Mavericks as a +1 underdog in Game 4 with +2200 odds of pulling an 0-3 comeback and winning the NBA Finals.

implied probability is grossly beyond what historical data suggest it should be

That odds price implies the Mavs have a 4.35% chance of ripping off four straight wins and leaving the Celtics shocked at the altar. That implied probability is grossly beyond what historical data suggest it should be.

The only logical conclusion left is that the Mavs must be a special team in a unique situation, correct? Wrong again.

Dallas went 0-2 against Boston during the regular season and is now 0-5 across all matchups. Boston is also mostly healthy (aside from Kristaps Porzingis), is 45-6 at home in the regular and postseason combined, and would host Game Seven in the unlikely event it is required.

The Mavericks also entered the NBA Finals with the aim of becoming the third-largest underdog based on series odds to win the Finals, a goal they are just a couple of days away from potentially missing.

An NBA team will overcome the odds and secure an 0-3 comeback one day. And there will be a team to do it in a championship round for the second time ever. 

But do yourself a favor and don’t bet on it.

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