In the last four decades, only two teams came back to win an NBA title in straight games after going down 0-2: the 2006 Miami Heat and the 2021 Milwaukee Bucks. Here’s how the two teams pulled the mother of all comebacks.
Dwyane Wade and Giannis Antetokounmpo taking over
The 2006 Miami Heat team was full of stars: Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Udonis Haslem, and Antoine Walker. When the team needed its leader, Dwyane Wade rose to the occasion, and everyone gave way. Wade put the team on his back and averaged 35 points in the series.
On the other hand, Giannis Antetokounmpo also had Superman-like stats in the series against the Phoenix Suns. He averaged 35 points in six games. Both teams have an all-star supporting cast, but these two shined the brightest among them.
Miami Heat had their own version of Big 3 in 2006 with Wade, O’Neal, and Walker. Shaq averaged 13.7 points, while Antoine chipped in 13.8 points. Together with Wade, the three of them combined for 63 points average in the Finals. On the other hand, the Bucks had Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton.
Like the Heat, each of the Bucks’ big three has his role: Giannis handling the paint, Khris providing perimeter scoring, and Jrue with his relentless defense. Middleton averaged 19 points while Holiday provided 17 points per game. These three were responsible for 71 points per game in six games for Milwaukee.
Defense wins championships
When the Bucks and the Heat went down 0-2, the players knew something had to change. No one has climbed from a 0-3 deficit in the history of the NBA. The teams stepped up on defense, and the results showed defense still wins championships.
In the first two wins of Phoenix, CP3 averaged 27.7 points per game. In the following four losses, the Point God averaged 19. More significant than the drop in points was the increase in turnovers of Paul as the series went on. Devin Booker is the Suns’ star, and he put up monster numbers in the Finals. The Bucks knew stopping DBook as the head of the snake would not be easy. They tried to contain the team’s heart and soul in Paul, and it worked.
The 2006 Dallas Mavericks also experienced suffocating defense from the Heat. Dirk Nowitzki’s efficiency was +19 in Game 2, which the Mavs won and resulted in a 2-0 lead. However, it spiraled in the next four games. His plus/minus in Game 4 was minus 19. While in Game 5, it was minus 1 and minus 3 in Game 6.
One characteristic of great teams is the ability to adjust. In the Bucks and the Heat’s case, they adjusted the game plan as the series progressed. Milwaukee and Miami did something no other team has done and they are now champions because of it.
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