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LeBron and Cavs out to prove history repeats itself

After dropping Game 4 in Orlando and falling into a 3-1 hole, the Cleveland Cavaliers are done. The 2009 season that brought so much hope to the city of Cleveland is going to end in heartbreak again. Of the 190 teams that have dropped three of the first four games in a seven game series, only eight have come back to win the series. That’s a whopping 4.2% chance NBA history is giving the Cavs. Season’s over, right? Not so fast.
Let’s take a look at the last time a team overcame a 3-1 deficit in the Conference Finals. We have to go back to the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals when the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers. The series featured two 60-win teams that steamrolled their way through the regular season. Philadelphia’s offense was centered around its wing players, the legendary Julius Erving and Bobby Jones. Their post presence was Daryl Dawkins, an athletically gifted young center who came straight out of high school.
Boston was led by a 24 year-old small forward and legend in the making by the name of Larry Bird. Point guard Tiny Archibald, Cedric Maxwell – the defensive specialist (think of a 6’8” Delonte West) - and center Robert Parish made up Bird’s supporting cast.
Boston dropped the first game at home 105-104 after unheralded guard Andrew Toney put in 26 points off the bench, including the game winner. Boston came back to even up the series in Game 2 behind a legendary performance by Bird (34 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists). Philadelphia won Game 3 by 10 points and pushed the series to 3-1 with a 107-105 triumph in Game 4 after a last second play fell apart because time wasn’t called to get a play together. Any of this starting to sound familiar Cavs fans?
After the first four games, Philadelphia seemed like a bad matchup for Boston, just like the Magic are for the Cavs. Cleveland could have been swept if LeBron James hadn’t hit his last second miracle in Game 2. On the flip side, if Mo Williams hits his last second shot in Game 1 and LeBron misses his second free throw and Anderson Varejao gets the tip or LeBron’s last second prayer in overtime is answered, the Cavs are up 3-1 instead.
Each series could’ve gone either way. Boston hopped on Bird’s back and went on to win the next three games by a grand total of 5 points in what many consider one of the greatest playoff series of all time.
Cleveland’s chances are slim, but it is not out of the question. Like the Celtics did with Bird, who finished up the series averaging 26.7 ppg, 13.4 rpg and 7.8 apg, the Cavs can ride James all the way back to win the series. He does need help from his supporting cast. I’m looking at you Mo Williams…and Zydrunas – you’re too big to hide behind him, a few 17-20 footers wouldn’t kill either one of you. I’m not ready to count out a team that is getting one of the greatest single series performances in NBA history quite yet.
It’s not very probable – Jordan never did it, Magic never did it, neither did Shaq or Kareem, Kobe has had it happen to him, as did Orlando assistant coach Patrick Ewing. But Bird, the greatest small forward of all time, did it at the age of 24. LeBron could wrestle that away from Bird, so the precedent is there, now only time will tell if history can repeat itself.

- Patrick Bauch

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