5 Greatest NBA Comebacks in History

December 22, 2020 By Admin

5 Greatest NBA Comebacks in History

If you are an NBA fan then you have undoubtedly witnessed your fair share of jaw-dropping comebacks, games in which a team was so hopelessly behind that the fans moved on and the stands had nearly emptied. But then, one drop rain follows another, and soon enough the losing team is raining buckets upon buckets in a furious deluge of power jams, soft floaters, and deadly treys from beyond the arc.

We all have those games etched in our minds and the list below is culled by consensus opinions but is certainly not infallible. Everyone has an opinion and the games referenced below are several examples of teams demonstrating steely resolve and overcoming incredible odds to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

When the NBA returns, after being on hiatus for several months due to the global pandemic, hopefully, we will see a few of the upcoming playoff games take a seat at this illustrious table. As of this writing, the Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks are the beasts of the East while it’s a razor-thin line in the West, with the Lakers slightly favored over the Clippers to win the conference according to the oddsmakers.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Top 5 Greatest NBA Comebacks of All Time


5. (2008) Boston Celtics vs. L.A. Lakers: 24-point deficit

The Boston Celtics held a 2-1 series lead over the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals when LA was gunning for its second consecutive victory at the Staples Center to knot the series at two. The Lakers sprinted from the blocks and drove out to a 21-point lead, the largest first-quarter lead in NBA Finals history, and extended it to 24 points midway through the third quarter. However, the Big Green Machine would begin to rev its engines as the Celtics erased the deficit and took the lead with 4:07 remaining in the game.

Boston would go on to win the game 97-91 and ultimately the title in six games that year. There are other teams that rallied from greater deficits not on this list but this game makes our top five because it occurred on the NBA’s grandest stage and very possibly changed the course of that championship series.

4. (2008) Dallas Mavericks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: 29-point deficit

The Timberwolves were rebuilding during the ’07-’08 season after the loss of All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, who sought a trade to a contender and was granted his wish when he was dealt to the Boston Celtics. Minnesota would win only 22 games that season and this one against the Mavericks appeared as though it would be one of those rare occasions when they led by 29 points early in the third quarter.

However, the Mavericks Jason Terry began hitting everything in sight and in just a little over a quarter, scored 24 points, giving Dallas a lead with five minutes remaining in the final frame that they would never relinquish.

3. (2002) Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks: 30-point deficit

The Lakers were aiming for a fourth consecutive championship at the start of the 2002-2003 season but Shaq was ailing and the entire team hobbled out of the blocks to a 7-13 record when they met the 18-1 Dallas Mavericks on December 6th at the Staples Center. The Mavs were drilling buckets from everywhere and led by 30 points at the beginning of the third quarter. 

But then Kobe Bryant took control in the final frame by scoring 100 percent of his shots from the field and the charity stripe. When the dust settled, the Black Mamba had notched 21 points in the fourth and hit the game-winner with eight seconds left for a 105-103 LA victory. The Lakers trailed in all but 22.4 seconds of the entire game but they were in front when the buzzer sounded and that’s all that counts.

2. (2009) Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls: 35-point deficit

Hopes were high for the Bulls entering the 2009-2010 season after Derrick Rose copped Rookie of the Year honors the previous year. However, when Chicago welcomed the Sacramento Kings to the United Center on December 21st, they were limping along with a 10-15 mark but were in fine form to begin this game. The Bulls blazed their way to a 35-point lead midway through the third quarter but the Kings would not be deterred. Sacramento went on a 19-5 run and cut the lead to 19 points at the end of the third frame.

Between rookie Tyreke Evans and 32-year-old veteran Ime Udoka, the Kings roared back and crowned the Bulls by the score of 102-98, eliciting jeers and boos from the crowd as their hometown zeroes, er, heroes, left the court.

1. (1996) Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets: 36-point deficit

This is the granddaddy of all NBA comebacks. The year was 1996 and the Jazz was one of the league’s elites, led by Karl “The Mailman” Malone and John Stockton. Conversely, the Nuggets were rebuilding and had just hired Dick Motta the day before, replacing Bernie Bickerstaff. This was supposed to be an easy mark on the schedule for Utah but it turned into a war, with Denver sprinting to a 36-point lead with just 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

Ultimately Karl Malone would work his magic with 31 points and lead the Jazz to a stunning 107-103 victory, sealing the deal on the greatest comeback in NBA history. 

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