Top 5 NBA Postseason Comebacks
We knew these were going to be exciting playoffs, but we didn’t know they’d be this exciting. That opening game between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers series will go down as one of the all-time greats, and then the Clippers turned around and went the other way in a dramatic loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
And that’s not even taking into consideration some of the other big fourth-quarter comebacks we’ve seen this postseason already. There have been a ton, and we’re not even to the Conference Finals yet!
With all these great comebacks, this seems like as good a time as any to look at the craziest comebacks in NBA playoff history. Two of the eight listed below have already happened this postseason, but you’ll have to read on to find out about the rest:
San Antonio Spurs (96) at L.A. Clippers (86), Western Conference Semifinals, Game 3, 2012 – Down by as much as 24 points, the Spurs held the Clippers scoreless for over eight minutes in the third while they went on a 24-0 run for the eventual win. Within a couple of weeks, the Clippers were on the right end of the second-biggest comeback in playoff history and the wrong end of the fourth-biggest comeback in playoff history.
Boston Celtics (97) at L.A. Lakers (91), NBA Finals, Game 4, 2008 – This one is a little bit different from the other games on the list because it’s the only one that actually took place in an NBA Finals. The Lakers jumped out to 35-14 lead after the first quarter and led by as many as 24 in the first half. They were still up 18 at the break, but Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all played a role in the comeback win. In an interesting side note, the roles were reversed in Game 2, with the Lakers down 24 and making a furious comeback. They only made it to within two, though, and the Celtics ended up winning that game too. Of course, when it was all said and done, they won the series 4-2, but that historic comeback was one of the more memorable games of that postseason run for Boston.
Phoenix Suns (124) at Houston Rockets (117), Western Conference Finals, Game 2, 1994 – This one was wild in that the Houston Rockets had just scored 40 points in the third to head into the final period up 100-82, but the Rockets followed that monster quarter up with one in which they scored only 8 points, so Phoenix was able to rally, force overtime and win the thing by seven. Charles Barkley’s 34 points and 15 rebounds went a long way towards getting that win, and Hakeem Olajuwon dropped 31 and 17 in the heartbreaking loss.
#5 – New Jersey Nets (90) at Boston Celtics (94), Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3, 2002 – Boston entered the fourth quarter down by 21, but got hot and scored 41 points in the final period while New Jersey only managed 16. Paul Pierce dropped 19 all by himself in the fourth quarter to fuel the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in league history.
#4 – L.A. Lakers (97) at Seattle SuperSonics (95), Western Conference Semifinals, Game 4, 1989 – The Lakers were down by as many as 29 points in the first half, but James Worthy’s 12 points in the final quarter helped fuel L.A. to the win for the game and the sweep for the series. No team has ever been down by more in a playoff game and still gone on to win the game.
#3 – Dallas Mavericks (82) at Portland Trail Blazers (84), Round 1, Game 4, 2011 – This will forever be known as The Brandon Roy Game, because it was the day Roy came back from the dead (or at least relative ineffectiveness in the wake of nagging knee injuries) to offer up one of the best games of his career. Portland was down by as many as 23 points at one point in the third quarter, but they started the fourth down by 18. That’s exactly how many points Roy scored in the fourth quarter, while the entire Dallas team only scored 15. Roy hit the go-ahead shot with 39 seconds left, giving Portland the win in one of the most exciting comebacks in league history. While Dallas went on to win the series, it was a great send-off for Roy, who would retire after Portland’s season ended.
#2 – L.A. Clippers (99) at Memphis Grizzlies (98), Round 1, Game 1, 2012 – We know this story well because we just witnessed it a few weeks ago. The Clippers were down by 27 points, but behind Chris Paul’s clutch play and Nick Young’s three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, they came back to win by one point after Paul hit a couple of free throws with 23.7 seconds left in the game. The score heading into the third quarter was 85-64, and the Clippers went on a 26-1 run in the fourth quarter. It tied for the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoffs history.
#1 – Washington Bullets (95) at Philadelphia 76ers (94), Round 1, Game 1, 1986 – Down by 17 points in the fourth quarter, Washington finished the game on an improbable 17-0 run, culminating in an insane banked three-pointer by Dudley Bradley at the buzzer to take the one-point win. Not only was it about as dramatic a comeback as is possible in this game, but Bradley was just about the last person anybody expected to hit a game-winner in that situation. A 17-0 run is hard enough to accomplish as it is, but to close out a game that way in a team’s first game of the playoffs? That’s the stuff of legend.
Do these 2012 playoffs have any more big comebacks left in them? We’ll be watching with baited breath. As wild as things have been of late, we can’t count out anything.