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Should you bet the Bucks to erase 0-2 deficit and win the NBA Finals?

Nathaniel S. Butler / National Basketball Association / Getty

Only four teams have ever won the NBA Finals after falling down 0-2. On Sunday, the Bucks will begin their bid to become the fifth.

After dropping the first two games of the series, Milwaukee is now +375 at theScore Bet to win the Finals, while the Suns are a resounding -500 to win their first-ever title. With the Bucks heading home for Games 3 and 4, is it worth betting on Milwaukee to turn this series around as big underdogs?

A historic challenge

While a club can erase an 0-2 hole in the Finals - we've seen it four times before and twice this century - it's rarely worth betting at anything short of a long-shot price.

Here's a list of every team to fall behind 0-2 in the Finals since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976:

2020 Miami Heat Los Angeles Lakers L 4-2
2018 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors L 4-0
2017 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors L 4-1
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors W 4-3
2009 Orlando Magic Los Angeles Lakers L 4-1
2008 Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics L 4-2
2007 Cleveland Cavaliers San Antonio Spurs L 4-0
2006 Miami Heat Dallas Mavericks W 4-2
2005 Detroit Pistons San Antonio Spurs L 4-3
2002 New Jersey Nets Los Angeles Lakers L 4-0
2000 Indiana Pacers Los Angeles Lakers L 4-2
1999 New York Knicks San Antonio Spurs L 4-1
1997 Utah Jazz Chicago Bulls L 4-2
1996 Seattle SuperSonics Chicago Bulls L 4-2
1995 Orlando Magic Houston Rockets L 4-0
1993 Phoenix Suns Chicago Bulls L 4-2
1989 Los Angeles Lakers Detroit Pistons L 4-0
1987 Boston Celtics Los Angeles Lakers L 4-2
1986 Houston Rockets Boston Celtics L 4-2
1983 Los Angeles Lakers Philadelphia 76ers L 4-0
1977 Portland Trail Blazers Philadelphia 76ers W 4-2

Since the merger, 21 squads have taken a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, and 18 of them (85.7%) won the series. In fact, more sides pulled off the four-game sweep (six) than lost the series (three) after going up 2-0, and only one other team (2005 Pistons) forced a Game 7 after an 0-2 deficit.

And it's not just in the Finals, either. Franchises that win the first two contests have won 339 of 365 playoff series (92.9%) dating back to the 1976-77 season and five of eight series this postseason - including Phoenix's two series wins in the two previous rounds.

The Bucks' current odds to win it all would suggest there's roughly a 21% chance they'll climb out of this 0-2 hole, which is significantly higher than the 14.3% success rate for former finalists or 7.1% rate for all playoff clubs. Is there a reason to back them at this price despite teams' past failures?

Bet the better team

Coming into this series, Milwaukee was the clear underdog (+170) given the uncertainty of star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had missed two matchups before the Finals with a knee injury. The two-time MVP looked great in a 42-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 2, but his side still finds itself down two games to none.

If the Bucks can't win with an effort like that, their chances in this series are slim. Entering Game 2, Milwaukee had won nine of its last 11 games when Antetokounmpo scored at least 40 points, making Thursday's loss - which came despite a sluggish start from the Suns' offense - even tougher to bear.

The truth is, even with a healthy superstar, the Bucks simply aren't as good as Phoenix this year. The Suns were the better team in the regular season, they outscored their opponents by a title-worthy margin through the first three rounds, and they've showcased their depth and versatility brilliantly through the first two games of this championship series.

Even if Milwaukee wins Game 3, the victory likely won't be enough to tip the scales. The Heat lost Games 1 and 2 a year ago before beating the Lakers by 11 points in what seemed like a potential series-shifting Game 3. Instead, Miami lost two of the next three contests and became a footnote in a long line of clubs unable to erase an early Finals deficit.

The Bucks have the star power and supporting cast to turn this series around - much like the 2016 Cavaliers and 2006 Heat did in years past - and that starts with a must-win Game 3. But at these odds, you're better suited betting Milwaukee game-by-game than paying a modest price for a miracle.

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at

Should you bet the Bucks to erase 0-2 deficit and win the NBA Finals?
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