The longest journey starts with the first step. The Sixers won Game 4 on Monday night, but the hill of an 0-3 series deficit is vertical and laden with rocks and pitfalls. Only five teams have climbed it, none from the NBA in 130 chances.
Here’s a look:
1942 Stanley Cup Finals
Toronto def. Detroit, 4-3
Summary: Toronto lost the first two games at home and another in Detroit before finally breaking through in Game 4. That game ended with a virtual riot when an offsides call went against Detroit and a fan threw a hot-water bottle on the ice. It ended with Detroit coach Jack Adams beating up referee Mel Harwood. This occurred decades before the movie Slap Shot, by the way.
Turning point: The Maple Leafs won Game 5 in Toronto, 9-3, setting a then-record for most goals in a Finals game.
Game 7: Toronto scored all three of its goals in the final period to complete the comeback.
Fun piece of trivia: Maple Leafs captain Syl Apps led all players during the postseason with 13 points in 13 games. Apps was a pole vaulter for Canada’s Olympic team at the 1936 Games in Berlin. He joined the Army after the 1942-43 season, during the height of World War II, but returned to the NHL in 1945 and won Cups in 1947 and 1948.
Quoting: After the Red Wings failed to clinch at home in Game 6, the Detroit Free Press noted that “Fans had come prepared for any eventuality. One of them threw a good-sized fish (it was a pickerel) onto the ice.”
1975 NHL Quarterfinals
N.Y. Islanders def. Pittsburgh, 4-3
Summary: The Penguins scored 14 goals in the first three games, four in the final four.
Turning point: Game 5 when the Penguins outshot the Islanders by 38-19 but lost, 4-2, on home ice. Afterward, Pittsburgh players confessed they were looking ahead to playing the defending-champion Flyers in the next round.
Game 7: Ed Westfall, the Islanders captain, scored on a backhander with six minutes left in a 1-0 game that must have been gripping. Winning goaltender Chico Resch, who finished his career in 1987 backing up Ron Hextall for the Flyers, said that Pittsburgh did not have a shot on goal once the Islanders took the lead.
Fun piece of trivia: Syl Apps Jr., whose father was captain of the 1942 Maple Leafs, played for the Penguins.
Quoting: “Beautiful,” said Al Arbour, who coached the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cups starting in 1980. “We were written off before the New York Ranger [first-round] series. We were written off when we were down by three games [to Pittsburgh]. This team doesn’t know what the word ‘quit’ means.”
Not exactly how Jason Kelce would have said it, but it gets the point across.
Boston def. N.Y. Yankees, 4-3
Summary: In four days, the gritty Red Sox eradicated a curse that had haunted Boston for the 86 years since it traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1918. All it took was a stolen base, a Big Papi and a bloody sock. Hard to argue this rivalry was any better than the 2003 and 2004 League Championship Series. The Red Sox lost the previous year on an Aaron Boone homer in the bottom of the 11th inning of the seventh game in the Bronx.
Turning point: Game 4 when Mariano Rivera, the greatest postseason relief pitcher in baseball history, walked Kevin Millar with a one-run lead to start the ninth. Dave Roberts was brought off the bench, stole second and scored on Bill Mueller’s base hit. Big Papi, David Ortiz, won it with a walkoff home run in the 12th.
Game 7: Was a 10-3 blowout led by two homers from Johnny Damon. The drama in Game 4 was followed by another Ortiz game-winning hit in Game 5 and Curt Schilling pitched seven riveting innings with a torn ankle tendon that bloodied his sock. Skeptics and critics, which Schilling has plenty of, accused him of over-dramatization of his injury by using ketchup.
Found this in an old folder, for all you ketchup dinks.. pic.twitter.com/DuJiCQfE9M
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) November 12, 2014
Fun piece of trivia: Schilling’s solid sock sold for $92,613 to an anonymous buyer at a 2013 auction.
Quoting: “I’d like to see the record for walk-off hits,” said Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler. Yeah, that Gabe Kapler. “What David Ortiz has done is incredible. He’s carried us.”
2010 Eastern Conference Semifinal
Flyers def. Boston, 4-3
Summary: The Flyers lost the first three games and their goaltender and then got way behind on the road in the finale. (Wiping off hands.) No sweat.
Turning point: Simon Gagne’s winner in Game 4 started the comeback after Boston’s Mark Recchi had sent it to overtime with just 32 seconds left. The Flyers won Game 5 in a shutout, but lost goaltender Brian Boucher to a knee injury. Michael Leighton finished the series.
One other key play: Mike Richards’ hit on David Krejci knocked the Bruins star out of the series in Game 3.
Game 7: The Flyers allowed Boston to get out to a 3-0 lead, which had TD Garden Arena frothing, but James van Riemesdyk’s goal late in the first gave Philadelphia life. The Flyers eventually won it, 4-3, after Simon Gagne scored the only goal of the third.
Triviality: Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger averaged 30:05 of ice time during the series, which turned out to be the last extended postseason run of his career.
Quoting: “Simon Gagne, in his first game after surgery, playing on a still-mending broken toe, made the feel-good headlines with his game-winning goal in overtime,” Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann wrote after Game 4. “But it was Boucher who defined them, good and bad and persistent most of all. Trailing in their playoff series by 3-0 to the Boston Bruins, with nothing to lose but a reputation for inconsistency, the Flyers and Boucher played what was, in many ways, their worst game of the series. Yet it is the only game that they have won. (Explanations to come in another lifetime.)”
2014 Western Conference Quarterfinal
Los Angeles def. San Jose, 4-3
Summary: The Kings started a remarkable run that ended in their second championship with the Miracle That No One Saw. Every game started after 10 p.m. ET
Turning point: Former Flyer Justin Williams, Mr. Spring, scored a disputed goal that held up as the winner in Game 6. Before the game, San Jose coach Todd McLellan replaced struggling starting goalie Antti Niemi with Alex Stalock, who made his first career playoff start.
Game 7: Jonathan Quick, who was shaky early in the series, made 39 saves and the Kings killed six power plays in a 5-1 win. L.A. padded the score sheet with two empty-netters.
Fun piece of trivia: In eight career Game 7s, Williams has seven goals and seven assists and his teams are 7-1. He had an assist on the game-winning goal in this particular Game 7.
Quoting: “This is as low as it’s been for me,” San Jose’s McLellan said, “and for the players that have been together for the six years that I’ve been here.”
Justin Williams’ disputed goal in Game 6