Top 10 NBA Playoffs Single Game Comebacks

This weekend Brandon Roy led the Blazers on a remarkable 4th quarter comeback against the Mavericks.  Roy outscored Dallas 18-15 in the 4th as Portland erased an 18 point deficit.  Naturally, that got us to thinking where that game ranks amongst the greatest single game comebacks in NBA postseason history.  It’s quite an illustrious list with some of the greatest players and teams in NBA history.  So, where does Roy’s heroics rank?  Let’s find out with our Top 10 Playoff Comebacks!

10) 2006 NBA Finals Game 3 – Miami 98 Dallas 96
-In their first Finals appearance, the Heat found themselves down 2-0 in games and trailing 89-76 with 6:33 left in the final period.  Dwyane Wade scored 12 of his 42 points to lead Miami on a 22-7 run to close the game and Gary Payton made the GW jumper to break a 95-95 tie with 9 seconds left.  Dirk Nowitzki could only make 1 of 2 free throws in an attempt to tie the game.  The Heat saved the Finals that night and the Game 3 comeback propelled Miami to their first championship… back when the world didn’t hate them.

9) 1992 NBA Finals Game 6 – Chicago 97 Portland 93
-I bet you didn’t think you would find Jordan’s Bulls on this list, but their 1992 Game 6 Finals comeback against Portland comes in at #9.  Before Miami’s 2006 comeback, it was the last time a team had come from at least 13 down in the 4th to win a Finals game.  Chicago trailed by 13 to start the quarter and the comeback was even more surprising considering Chicago got back in the game with His Airness grounded on the bench and Scottie Pippen leading the charge.  Jordan would eventually get back in the game and close the series out for the Bulls.  His steal and jam put the Bulls ahead and his two baskets in the final minutes kept them in the lead and gave them back to back championships.

8) 1995 NBA Finals Game 1 – Houston 120 Orlando 118
-This game is known more for Nick Anderson’s gutwrenching missed four free throws in the final minute that allowed Houston to stay in the game and eventually win in overtime.  However, Houston had also trailed by 20 points in the first half and were led back by one Kenny “The Jet” Smith, whose Finals record seventh three pointer sent the game into overtime.  There, it was Hakeem Olajuwon’s tip-in with .3 seconds left that won it for Houston.  The Rockets would go on to sweep a young Shaq and the Magic on the way to their own back to back championships.

7) 1994 Western Conference Semis Game 2 – Phoenix 124 Houston 117
-At the time, it was the biggest 4th quarter comeback in NBA Playoffs history.  The Suns trailed by 18 in Houston to start the 4th and were down 104-84 with 10 minutes left.  But, Phoenix held the Rockets to only 8 points in the quarter (then a record playoff low) and Danny Ainge hit a three to tie the game at 108 to send the game into overtime.  It was all Phoenix to start the OT period and they ran away with the win.  The Suns were led by 34 points from Charles Barkley.  Houston got the last laugh winning the series, and the NBA title.  Unfortunately, no video of this game, but how bout a Sir Charles classic instead?

6) 1986 First Round Game 1 – Washington 95 Philadelphia 94
-Perhaps the most improbable comeback on our list came back in the Playoffs opener in 1986.  In truth, this should probably be at the top of the list, but this game slides down to #6 because of its lack of historical importance.  The Bullets (no, not the Wiz) ended the game on a 18-0 run in the last 3:17 and won the game on a banked Dudley Bradley three at the horn.  Had it not been a first round game in 1986 and had it not been Dudley Bradley making the game winning shot, perhaps this comeback would have more significance.  In spite of the jaw-dropping comeback in Game 1, Philadelphia went on to win the series.  In case you don’t want to watch the entire video, skip to the 13:40 mark for the final bucket (also note the play by play guy hilariously dissing Bradley right before he nets the winner).

5) 2011 First Round Game 4 – Portland 84 Dallas 82
-Our most recent entry in the countdown comes in at #5 due to the sheer improbability of Portland’s comeback.  The 18 point lead Dallas built to start the 4th quarter seemed like 58 because the Blazers managed only 14 points in the 3rd quarter and missed their first 15 shots!  Even more improbable was the man who led Portland’s comeback – oft-injured former All-Star Brandon Roy, who just days earlier, had been near tears on the bench in Game 2.  Roy, who scored 18 points in 3 games, put in 18 in the 4th quarter alone in Game 4 to spearhead Portland’s amazing comeback including a 4 point play and the go ahead J with 39 seconds left.

4) 2000 Western Conference Finals Game 7 – LA Lakers 89 Portland 84
-Imagine if this comeback had never taken place.  The Shaq/Kobe Lakers would not have threepeated, the legacies of Shaq and Kobe and Phil would be entirely different… and the JailBlazers might have won an NBA championship.  Instead, down 15 in the 4th quarter, the Lakers put together the greatest Game 7 comeback in NBA history.  A 25-4 Lakers run was finished off in style with this massive Kobe to Shaq alley oop dunk that put the Lakers up 6 in the final minute.  Of course, the Lakers went on to beat the Pacers in the NBA Finals and the rest as they say, is history.

3) 2008 NBA Finals Game 4 – Boston 97 LA Lakers 91
-The Lakers were on the wrong end of an even better comeback at Staples 8 years later.  In the modern renewal of the game’s greatest rivalry, the Lakers built an impressive 24 point first half lead that seemed insurmountable.  Boston’s rally slowly took shape as a 31-15 3rd quarter cut LA’s lead from 18 to 2.  The Ubuntu spirit of the Celtics shined in the 4th as everyone from Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to James Posey and Eddie House keyed Boston’s remarkable turnaround.  Ray Allen’s acrobatic lay in finished the amazing comeback in the last 20 seconds and Boston would go on to win their 17th title.  This Celtics comeback may be the most memorable single Finals game in the post-Jordan era. 

2) 2002 Eastern Conference Finals Game 3 – Boston 94 New Jersey 90
-Incredibly, that Game 4 performance in 2008 isn’t even the best Celtics comeback of the decade.  It was Celtic captain Paul Pierce that led the biggest 4th quarter playoff comeback in NBA Playoffs history.  The Truth scored 19 points in the final period as Boston overcame a 21 point New Jersey lead to start the fourth, successfully driving to the basket with the determination of a future Finals MVP.  Boston outscored New Jersey 41-16 in the final period.  Fortunately for the Nets, they came back to win the series before losing in the Finals to the Lakers.

1) 1995 Eastern Conference Semis Game 1 – Indiana 107 New York 105
-The greatest comeback in NBA Playoffs history didn’t take place over a half, a quarter, or even a few minutes.  No, it only took 16.4 seconds for Reggie Miller to score 8 points and complete one of the most remarkable sequences in NBA history.  Down by 6, Reggie first hit a three to bring Indiana to within a basket.  Then, he instantaneously stole the inbounds pass, retreated behind the line, and knocked it down again.  After John Starks clanked two go-ahead free throws (surprise!) Reggie grabbed a rebound and got fouled.  The ensuing free throws completed Miller’s incredible comeback and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest clutch players in Association history. 

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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