Boston, a city with a flair for playoff comebacks, now needs another.
The Celtics are on the brink.
Down 2-0 to the Chicago Bulls, and on the road for the next two games starting with Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday night, Boston is in massive trouble. Consider: Bulls guard Dwyane Wade has never been on a team that blew a 2-0 series lead (Wade and the Miami Heat were 12-0 in such spots), and the Celtics are 1-16 all-time in series where they lost the first two games.
Win or lose, Friday won’t be the end of Boston’s season.
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But it may be the last chance the Celtics have to save themselves from a stunning freefall that a No. 1 seed has never experienced in NBA history.
“Coming in, I didn’t say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be up 2-0 on Boston.’ No, no one thought that,” Wade said. “But we are in this position. We’ve earned it.”
The Celtics-Bulls game is the first of three Game 3s on Friday night. Houston goes to Oklahoma City with the Rockets holding a 2-0 lead after rallying to win Wednesday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers play at Utah with that series knotted at a game apiece.
“You can’t exhale thinking ‘Oh, we’re going home, we’re going to be OK,’” Jazz forward Joe Johnson said. “That’s not the case. It’s a real, real thin line between winning and losing in the playoffs.”
Bostonians know playoff fortunes can turn fast.
The Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the 2004 AL Championship Series and somehow prevailed. The Bruins trailed 4-1 in the third period of a Game 7 against Toronto in 2013 before winning in overtime. The Patriots trailed 28-3 late in the third quarter of this year’s Super Bowl against Atlanta and defied all odds to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The Celtics — down 2-0 for their fifth consecutive playoff series — now will try to add to that pile of lore.
“We’re fighting for our lives right here,” Celtics forward Al Horford said.
Here’s a look at Friday’s games:
Celtics at Bulls, Chicago leads 2-0. Game 3, 7 p.m., ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: It is impossible to ignore or measure the effect that the death of Isaiah Thomas’ sister on the eve of this series is having on the Celtics star and the rest of his team. He has battled, averaging 26.5 points in the first two games — and is expected to play Friday after missing practice Thursday for his sister’s funeral. Jimmy Butler is averaging 26 points for the Bulls.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Rebounds. Chicago is outrebounding Boston 96-74 so far in the series. The Celtics might not win this battle, but they can do better.
INJURY UPDATE: None of note.
PRESSURE IS ON: Brad Stevens. So much has been made of his playoff record now being 2-10, but it’s also very fair to wonder what might have been if Danny Ainge made some moves at the trade deadline to add some postseason savvy to this roster.
Rockets at Thunder, Houston leads 2-0. Game 3, 9:30 p.m., ESPN.
NEED TO KNOW: Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook had 51 points — on 43 shots — in Game 2 and the Thunder lost anyway. Westbrook became the third player in the last 30 years to score that many points in a playoff loss, joining Michael Jordan (63, 1986) and Ray Allen (51, 2009).
KEEP AN EYE ON: Nene. For as great as James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Eric Gordon were for Houston in the first two games, Nene deserves a big tip of the cap as well. He’s 10 for 11 from the field; 0 for 1 on jumpers, 10 for 10 at the rim.
INJURY UPDATE: Rockets F Sam Dekker (left hand) is out.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Thunder. Game 2 was the second time this season Westbrook topped 50 points in a loss. How will OKC find a way now?
Clippers at Jazz, series tied 1-1. Game 3, 10 p.m., ESPN2.
NEED TO KNOW: Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul averaged a combined 48 points in the first two games of the series. Utah has four players averaging double figures in the series, but Gordon Hayward is shooting 36 percent. Expect him to break out a bit now that the series has shifted to Utah.
KEEP AN EYE ON: J.J. Redick. The Clippers’ sharpshooter got only 13 shots in 60 minutes of playing time in the first two games of the series.
INJURY UPDATE: Jazz C Rudy Gobert (left knee) is out.
PRESSURE IS ON: The Jazz. First, no Gobert again is huge. Plus, the Clippers are 9-1 in their last 10 games in Salt Lake City, the one loss coming last month in a game where Utah trailed most of the way.
AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman and Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.