Some people don’t believe in declaring a game to be a must-win unless elimination is mathematically at stake. I’m not one of those people. After losing Game 1 to the Celtics at home, the Warriors have to win Game 2.
If they don’t, history suggests this thing is over. No team ever has lost the first two games of the Finals at home and come back to win the series. Only five times have a team gone down 0-2 and come back to win and in all five instances, it was the road team in the early hole, at least giving them the advantage of returning home for Game 3.
Milwaukee pulled this off last year, dropping the first two Finals games in Phoenix before sweeping the next four. The Warriors know all too well about the 2016 Cavaliers going down 0-2 in Oakland, then eventually winning the series in seven. But again, those teams lost the first two on the road.
If Golden State loses a second straight at home on Sunday, they’ll have to crawl back in the series in Boston.
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For the Celtics, the series has already taken a statistically massive swing in their favor: Teams who win Game 1 of the Finals have gone on to win the series over 70 percent of the time, whether that victory came at home or on the road.
It’s not a common thing for the road team to win Game 1 of the Finals. It’s only happened six times since 1990 and just twice this century. Good news for the Warriors, three of those six home that lost Game 1 at home did come back to win the series.
- 1991 Bulls: Lost Game 1 at home to Lakers, won series in five
- 2001 Lakers: Lost Game 1 at home to Sixers, won series in five
- 2013 Heat: Lost Game 1 at home to Spurs, won series in seven
So the Game 1 loss, while it certainly flipped the odds against them, didn’t totally doom the Warriors. But a Game 2 loss would. Unless the Warriors plan on doing something no team in NBA history has ever done.