Decade’s Best: Comeback Win
When the Celtics and Lakers returned to center stage.
by Franklyn Calle
Best comeback win of the decade? A few come in mind. T-Mac’s 13 points in 35 seconds back in 2004 was definitely a classic. His four consecutive threes led the Rockets to a 81-80 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. And who could forget the 2002 game in which the Los Angeles Lakers came back on the Mavericks after being down by 30 points in 3rd quarter. Kobe Bryant scored 21 of his 27 points in the 4th quarter (as well as the game winning shot with 8.4 seconds left), leading the Lakers to a 105-103 win in one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history. But when thinking of the “best” comeback win, it has to be one that has more of a meaning behind it than just some regular season late game run.
The decade’s best comeback win has to go to the Boston Celtics overcoming a 24-point deficit in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Lakers. Yes, sorry Laker fans but it is what it is. This win was much more then just the largest comeback in the NBA Finals since in 1971, it is one that can go down as a crucial game in NBA history.
You see, aside from there never being a team that had overcome a 15-point deficit after the first quarter in the finals, that Celtics‘ win currently plays a major role in how certain records currently stand. Had the Lakers not blown their 24-point lead and then gone on to win Game 5 (which they did), they would have returned to Boston with a 3-2 series lead (instead of being down 3-2) and would have only had to steal one in Boston for the championship. In other words, Kobe Bryant could very well have been chasing Michael Jordan’s six rings this season. The Celtics and Lakers would be tied up at 16 championships each. This upcoming NBA Finals could have been the one in which the Celtics loose their throne as the NBA’s leaders in championships. This upcoming Finals could have been the one in which Bryant finally and officially stands next to Jordan. But could have and would have aren’t part of the game.
The fact of the matter is that the Celtics finished the game on a 21-3 run after already having outscored Los Angeles 31-15 in the third quarter (including finishing the 3rd on a 10-1 run), and went on to win the game by a final score of 97-91 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Lakers were up by as much as 24 points in the 2nd quarter and by 20 points with over six minutes remaining in the 3rd. But from that point on, the Celtics would go on to outscore L.A., 47-21.
This game left many wondering what went wrong. Could it have been Lamar Odom being held to only 4 points in the second half after scoring 15 in the first two quarters? Or what about Bryant not hitting a single field goal in the first half? Despite Odom’s lapse in the final two quarters, he finished with a team-high 19 points along with 10 rebounds. And despite Bryant’s off shooting night (went 6-19), the season’s MVP still finished with a double-double as he scored 17 points and dished out 10 assists. Pau Gasol also finished with much similar stats, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 boards. So I wouldn’t say that L.A.’s “big three” didn’t perform. Quite simply, their bench didn’t bring much to the table that night. Aside from Paul Pierce’s 20 points and 7 assists, Kevin Garnett’s 16 points and 11 rebounds and Ray Allen’s 19 points and 9 rebounds, the Celtics‘ bench came up big when needed the most. Boston’s bench outscored L.A.’s, 35-15. James Posey alone had 18 points off the bench for Boston.
So as you can see, this comeback victory can turnout to have far more of an effect on basketball history aside from its large deficit resurgence. Both teams currently stand at the top of their conferences with the strong possibility of meeting once again in June to continue their renewed rivalry. And although a Lakers championship wouldn’t tie them up with Boston’s banners nor would it tie Bryant with Jordan’s rings, it could very well set the stage for another one of those future decade’s best categories.
For more Decade Awards, check out the archive.