Number crunch: Comeback potential?

MIAMI -- The Boston Celtics are facing the daunting, yet not impossible, task of overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to the Miami Heat if they want to prolong their season. As we wait for Wednesday's Game 5, what does history tell us about the potential to pull off that feat?

While being down 3-1 is not the death sentence that 3-0 entails (in the history of the NBA, teams that win the first three games of a best-of-seven series are 99-0 overall), it's still no easy mountain to climb. Only eight teams in NBA history have overcome a 3-1 deficit in 199 tries (.960 winning percentage).

If Boston used its 1969 team as inspiration while trying to rally out of the 0-2 hole it found itself in to start this series, maybe coaches should whip together some clips from the 1968 and 1981 teams. In both those years, Boston rallied back from 3-1 deficits to top the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference finals. And both times the Celtics went on to win the NBA title.

Check out a snapshot of those series below, starting with the 1981 Celtics, who went on to top the Houston Rockets in six games:


1980-81 Boston Celtics | Basketball-Reference.com via kwout

The 1968 Celtics dropped three in a row to Philadelphia before flipping the script to win that series. Boston went on to top the Los Angeles Lakers in six games:


1967-68 Boston Celtics | Basketball-Reference.com via kwout

If the Celtics are able to win Game 5 Wednesday night in Miami, their chances of winning the series improve only marginally. Teams up 3-2 are still 206-35 (.855 winning percentage) in those series.