The No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks find themselves in a predicament in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs, down 3-1 to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat after a superhuman 56-point showing from Jimmy Butler in Game 4 to give the Heat that 3-1 lead. In NBA postseason history, teams that go up 3-1 in the first round have a 95.2% chance of advancing. A team has come back from a 3-1 deficit just 13 times in playoff history.
We repeat: Teams that go up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series in NBA history are 258-13 ... for a winning percentage of .952.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 25, 2023
Jimmy Butler's Heat will take a 3-1 lead to Milwaukee for Game 5. https://t.co/R5UsFdDCUg
Luckily for the Bucks, coming back from down 3-1 has been a relatively recent phenomenon. Seven of the 13 instances have come since 2003, and five have occurred since 2015.
The Denver Nuggets pulled off the feat twice in the 2020 Orlando bubble, taking down the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers after going down 3-1. The Cleveland Cavaliers famously came back from down 3-1 in the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors themselves came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder to make the 2016 Finals. In 2015, the Houston Rockets came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Clippers. The Phoenix Suns in 2006 and the Detroit Pistons in 2003 also came back from down 3-1.
The Pistons were the No. 1 seed in 2003 when they took down the Magic after falling behind 3-1. The Bucks can lean on that, knowing they are the better team overall. Milwaukee also has two games at home which they could easily win, so the key looks to be Game 6 in Miami. They’ll have to find a way to slow down Butler, which is easier said than done. The Heat forward is averaging 36.5 points per game on 62.8% shooting.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bucks are +125 to advance from the first round. This is the first time in the series they are underdogs to advance.