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A History Of 3-1 Collapses (And Overcoming It)

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Wammy Giveaway
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A History Of 3-1 Collapses (And Overcoming It) 

Post#1 » by Wammy Giveaway » Sat Oct 24, 2015 2:12 am

In the 2015 NBA Playoffs, the Clippers became the ninth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 series lead. It's important to remember the events of the past, even if they are very painful. If you fail to learn from those mistakes, history will repeat itself.

I've done some research on the eight existing 3-1 collapses and their respective aftermaths. The results are shown below...

1968: Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers in East Division Finals
- Lost superstar Wilt Chamberlain via trade to Los Angeles Lakers in following season
- In 9-year span, three 2nd round exits, 1st round exit, four missed playoffs

Healing:
- In 1976, during the ABA-NBA transition, 76ers purchased Julius Erving (Dr. J) from New Jersey Nets
- In playoffs, defeated Boston Celtics in East Division Finals, the same team who they lost to when up 3-1

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 1977

1970: Los Angeles Lakers over Phoenix Suns in West Division Semifinals
- Lost superstar Gail Goodrich via trade to Los Angeles Lakers following 3-1 collapse
- Goodrich would join the 1971-72 Lakers championship team who accumulated a 33-game winning streak
- Suns missed the playoffs six years in a row

Healing:
- Acquired Paul Westphal from the Boston Celtics via trade in 1975
- Gained a superstar in Alvan Adams by making the All Star Team in 1976
- In playoffs, defeated defending champion Golden State Warriors in Western Conference Finals

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 1976

1979: Washington Bullets over San Antonio Spurs in Eastern Conference Finals
- Lost superstar Larry Kenon to Chicago Bulls in free agency
- In 20-year span, three conference losses, five 2nd round exits, seven 1st round exits, four missed playoffs

Healing:
- Drafted Tim Duncan in 1997
- Took advantage of an NBA Lockout between 1998 and 99 to remind the league what basketball was truly about
- Coach Gregg Popovich turned Spurs into a fundamentally sound basketball team, paying homage to the 1920 Original Celtics

Reward: Won NBA championship in 1999

1981: Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers in Eastern Conference Finals
- Having already suffered 3-1 collapse in 1978, no ramifications could be found

Healing:
- In 1982, signed restricted free agent superstar Moses Malone
- In 1983 playoffs, ran off a 16-game playoff winning streak while defeating Los Angeles Lakers, the team who swept them in the 1982 NBA Finals

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 1982, won NBA championship in 1983

1995: Houston Rockets over Phoenix Suns in Western Conference Semifinals
- Lost superstar Charles Barkley via trade to Houston Rockets two years after collapse
- In 9-year span, a 2nd round exit, six 1st round exits, two missed playoffs

Healing:
- In 2004, signed free agent superstar Steve Nash
- Coach Mike D'Antoni introduced 7 Seconds Offense, re-inventing the purpose of the 3-point shot

Reward: Back-to-back Western Conference Finals appearances in 2005 and 2006

1997: Miami Heat over New York Knicks in Eastern Conference Semifinals
- Lost Patrick Ewing to injury in 1998, would lose him again in lockout season and ensuing playoffs

Healing:
- In 1999 playoffs, accomplished a Cinderella run so rare, Knicks stand as only team in history to make the Finals as an 8th seed

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 1999

2003: Detroit Pistons over Orlando Magic in Eastern Conference 1st Round
- Doc Rivers was fired
- Lost superstar Tracy McGrady via trade to Houston Rockets two years after collapse
- Magic missed the playoffs three years in a row

Healing:
- Drafted Dwight Howard following firing of Doc Rivers
- In 2009 playoffs, defeated defending champion Boston Celtics and top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers en route to Finals

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 2009

2006: Phoenix Suns over Los Angeles Lakers in Western Conference 1st Round
- Kobe Bryant threatened to leave Lakers in off-season
- Temporary regression and 1st round exit the following year

Healing:
- Acquired superstar Pau Gasol from Memphis Grizzlies via deadline trade in 2008
- In 2008 playoffs, defeated defending champion San Antonio Spurs in Western Conference Finals

Reward: NBA Finals appearance in 2008, followed by back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010

2015: Houston Rockets over Los Angeles Clippers in Western Conference 2nd Round
- Lost superstar Chris Paul via trade to Houston Rockets two years after collapse
- Lost superstar Blake Griffin via trade to Detroit Pistons three years after collapse, allowing DeAndre Jordan to leave in free agency
- Missed playoffs in 2017-18, return to Sterling days of Clippers yore

Healing
- Acquired Jerry West as consultant and demoted Doc Rivers
- Traded Austin Rivers, son of Doc Rivers, to Washington Wizards to erase perception of nepotism
- Became fourth team in history to make the playoffs without an All-Star in 2019
- Traded for superstar Paul George in order to sign superstar Kawhi Leonard, saving league parity

Reward: no significant reward

2016: Golden State Warriors over Oklahoma City Thunder in Western Conference Finals
- Lost superstar Kevin Durant to Golden State Warriors in free agency following 3-1 collapse

Healing
- TBD

Reward: TBD

2016: Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors in NBA Finals
- First time in NBA history a team blows a 3-1 lead in the Finals, previously 0-32 before this
- Required miracle stat for Cavaliers to break the curse
- No ramifications against Warriors due to 73-9 regular season, breaking the 72-10 Chicago Bulls win-loss record of 1996

Healing
- In 2016, signed free agent superstar Kevin Durant
- In 2017 playoffs, mustered 3 sweeps in a row for the first time in franchise and league history
- While they did get the magic 3-0 record in Finals to guarantee the W, Warriors suffered a 3-1 scare in Game 4, paving a path to a second chance at exorcising the omen - accomplished in Game 5

Reward: Won NBA championship in 2017

**NEW**
2020: Denver Nuggets over Utah Jazz AND Los Angeles Clippers in Western Conference 1st and 2nd Rounds
- First time in NBA history a team overcame back-to-back 3-1 leads
- For Clippers, only team among repeat offenders 76ers and Suns to blow 3-1 leads in record time (for context, Suns blew it in 25 years, 76ers 13 years, Clippers 5 years)

Healing (Jazz)
- TBD

Healing (Clippers)
- TBD

Most of the teams who blew a 3-1 series lead suffered a great deal of punishment. Some teams were stuck in 2nd round purgatory for quite some team, while other teams flat out missed the playoffs completely. 3-1 collapses even had the power to take away their superstar - and in the case of the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers, send their superstars to the very opponent who conjured the collapse in the first place.

The Clippers were on the cusp of many a disappointing season with DeAndre Jordan agreeing to join the Dallas Mavericks in the off-season. But it all changed due to Jordan's change of heart, and the Clippers change of character in that they will no longer take their home grown center for granted. Chris Paul being in Houston and patching things up with DeAndre also helped wonders, too.

But just like the pre-season game against the Portland Trailblazers last night, 3-1 spells can be overcome. All it took was the right changes and moves while accomplishing a historical feat no NBA team has ever done in the regular season or playoffs. I'm not talking about winning a championship, per se, but more in the lines of statistical achievement, such as the 16-0 streak by the 76ers in 1983 or the Knicks run as an 8th seed in the lockout season.

The Clippers could become the first team in NBA history to win a championship after a 3-1 collapse in the previous season. Think about it.

EDIT: The 3-1 omen is alive and well. I've added the punishments, as well as the other 3-1 occurrences to the table.
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BlzMwt
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Re: A History Of 3-1 Collapses (And Overcoming It) 

Post#2 » by BlzMwt » Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:56 pm

i definitely thought this was leading up to you stating that there was some correlation that within X number of years, there would be atleast an nba finals appearance or some semblance of success but im glad you didn't

statistically speaking, eventually something good was bound to happen to the teams who lost after being up 3-1

hopefully for the clippers, it's sooner rather than later
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Re: A History Of 3-1 Collapses (And Overcoming It) 

Post#3 » by Wammy Giveaway » Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:15 pm

I left the Clippers out of the discussion because their chapter is just beginning. Two paths could have been taken:

1. Lose DeAndre to Mavericks, remain in 2nd round purgatory (or miss the playoffs for a year), have at least a Western Conference Finals appearance to make it not a total loss
2. Break the rules, risk blowing it up, and go for a title to become first team in NBA history to win it all immediately after a 3-1 collapse

It would have been unfair for me to write off their eulogy just like that.
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UPDATED 

Post#4 » by Wammy Giveaway » Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:29 am

An old buddy is back.

Added the most recent 3-1 collapses to this list. Clippers second 3-1 collapse is quite legendary.

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