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Looking back at the biggest playoff series comebacks in WNBA history

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The Connecticut Sun are looking to become the first WNBA team to overcome a 2-0 playoff deficit.
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The Sun hasn’t set on Connecticut’s WNBA championship hopes just yet.

The Las Vegas Aces jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Sun in the 2022 WNBA Finals, putting them on the verge of winning their first title. Both wins came in Las Vegas as league MVP A’ja Wilson and fellow All-Stars Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum showed why they earned the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

With their backs against the wall, the Sun headed back to Uncasville, Conn., looking to keep their season alive on their home floor. They did just that on Thursday, as Alyssa Thomas took charge with a triple-double and led the Sun to a convincing 105-76 victory.

 

Thomas’ triple-double was the first ever recorded in the WNBA Finals, and the Sun will need to make more history if they want to become 2022 champions. After falling behind 2-0, Connecticut is one-third of the way to making an unprecedented comeback. However, just one slip-up will result in the end of its season and a championship celebration for Las Vegas.

As Connecticut tries to climb out of its WNBA Finals deficit, here’s a look back at series comebacks in playoff history:

Has a WNBA team ever come back from a 2-0 playoff series deficit?

No team has actually pulled off what the Sun are attempting to accomplish in the WNBA Finals.

Best-of-five playoff series were introduced for the WNBA Finals in 2005 and expanded to the league semifinals in 2016. In that time, every team that has ever fallen into a 2-0 hole in that format has wound up losing the series. 

The 2018 Phoenix Mercury came the closest to pulling off the improbable turnaround. They lost the first two games of their semifinal series to the Storm in Seattle before bouncing back with consecutive wins in Phoenix to force a Game 5. The Storm returned to the Pacific Northwest and took care of business in the win-or-go-home Game 5, winning 94-84 to avoid ending up on the wrong side of history.

Has a WNBA team ever come back from a 2-1 playoff series deficit?

While no team has come all the way back from a 2-0 series hole, the Sun can look to some examples of teams that came back from 2-1 – including themselves.

There have been seven instances of a team overcoming a 2-1 series deficit to come out on top. Four of those have taken place in the WNBA Finals and three have come in the semifinals. The Sun have been involved in the last two such series, including their semifinals triumph over the defending champion Chicago Sky that set up their WNBA Finals matchup with the Aces.

  • 2006 WNBA Finals: Shock over Monarchs
  • 2007 WNBA Finals: Mercury over Shock
  • 2009 WNBA Finals: Mercury over Fever
  • 2017 WNBA Finals: Lynx over Sparks
  • 2018 WNBA Semifinals: Mystics over Dream
  • 2020 WNBA Semifinals: Aces over Sun
  • 2022 WNBA Semifinals: Sun over Sky

How many WNBA teams have come back from a 1-0 deficit to win a best-of-three series?

The most common series comeback in the WNBA playoffs has happened in best-of-three matchups. In all, 33 teams have lost Game 1 in a best-of-three series before winning the next two games.

A closer look at the WNBA’s early playoff format helps explain why such comebacks were so common. From 1998 to 2009, the team with home-court advantage played Game 1 on the road before hosting its opponent for Games 2 and 3. Twenty-three teams came back from 1-0 deficits in three-game series during that span with a majority of them winning the last two contests at home.

 

From 2010 to 2015, the WNBA made it so teams with home-court advantage were at their own arenas for Games 1 and 3. Still, nine teams overcame 1-0 deficits under that format.

The league removed best-of-three series from its playoff layout from 2016 to 2021, moving to single elimination in the early rounds before moving to best-of-five matchups. They were added back in 2022 for the first round, and the Sky were the lone team to lose a Game 1 before advancing thanks to wins in Games 2 and 3 against the New York Liberty.