Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 10:40 am  |  26 responses

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.

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  • Babygab

    Now I need your take on this. If the lakers and celtics meet in june, who takes it home ? I mean, the lakers are really scary right now but I say they haven’t really been tested yet. The celtics are awesome too but they’ve been losing games they were not suppose to loose. I mean I’m a celtic fan, but man L.A is scary. I mean since last year playoffs you can see it. If you don’t hold at least a 15 points lead against L.A entering the money time, you ain’t sure to win the game, actually, you’re not winning the game. When you have that kind of swagger you are pretty much unstoppable. And really if San Antonio doesn’t pick it up quickly the lakers are surely heading back to the finals. The C’s should be there too, but I feel there’s much more opposition in the east, so i won’t get ahead of myself too much. Really, I need some other points of view on this.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Tzvi Twersky

    The celts were arguably involved in the two best comebacks of the decade, the other being against the Nets in 01 (?) when they came back from what was a 25 point deficit with a few minutes left in the 3rd.

  • Hoodsnake

    Kobe standing next to Jordan? Dude dont get ahead of yourself Jordan has 6 finals MVP’s and Kobe was 2nd banana in 3 of the 4 chips he won. And i didnt even mention that Detroit finals. Come off it.

  • http://slamonline.com/ niQ

    I remember going crazy at T-mac’s comeback win. Dude was just unconcious. *sigh those were the days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Myles Brown

    *Throws up in mouth* *Shakes fist vowing revenge*

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    That finals comeback was nice but, like Tzvi, I remember that playoff game versus the Nets. The way Kenyon and Kidd were clowning on the bench on one side, and with ‘Toine getting Pierce motivated on the other. Seemed to me that Pierce hit every shot and made every free throw in the 4th to win that game. Unbelievable. Years later, watching that game against LA in the finals, you knew the Celts could come back and get the win — Pierce had already done it once, so he knew it wasn’t impossible.

  • http://joeloholic.wordpress.com Joel O’s

    That Pierce-Walker comeback – that was 2002 against the Nets. That was a heck of a game. The entire 4th quarter of that game is posted on youtube, type “Boston Celtics comeback 02″. Really incredible how Toine and Pierce just willed them to win.

  • don

    my fave sequence on this comeback was when ray allen froze vushash*t with a fake crossover, hesitation move, then the camera zooming on sasha’s face on the ensuing timeout. i think i remember seeing him crying… wow gotta find that thing on youtube.

  • vtrobot

    the C’s/Lakers finals will be unreal this year. blood will be shed. i hope it’s one for the ages.

  • StF

    Still think its 13 in 35 seconds against san antonio

  • Heals

    I feel bad that Nets comeback gets lost in the shuffle, but the Game 4 comeback and Game 6 blowout will always be my Lakers Fan Kryptonite(sp?)

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    this has to be tmac’s 13 pts in 35 seconds. that was insane!!!!!

  • boy sanchez

    It’s got to be T-Mac’s 13 points in 35 seconds. I still remember that I almost burst into tears when I saw it for the 1st time… And I honestly feel something undefinable each and every time I see it.

  • http://www.cracked.com litetitan

    That Boston-LAL comeback win was outrageous. It was almost as outrageous as the BLOWOUT Boston performed to win the whole thing. I hope LAL watch those two games over and over come playoff time.

  • David

    I’m with Joel O. Watching Pierce will the Celt’s to the win in that game was awe-inspiring. Dude was just unstoppable.

    My other favorite comeback win might have been during the Heat-Mavs finals. But that’s probably because I’m from Seattle and it was really nice to watch GP hit that clutch bankshot.

  • http://dyalekt.blogspot.com d.Y.

    Celts/Nets. The footage of Walker’s speech (must’ve been the most inspired he ever was) sealed it.

  • http://www.slamonline.com oliver

    remember this,has to be the best ever!!
    nuff said,kobe=jordan,not yet.he had shaq men,kobe is like pippen to me,

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    How could you not mention the thing that really caused the comeback? It was PJ Brown’s dunk that won the game. As soon as he threw that one down everybody knew their was no way the Celtics were going to lose. Ray Allen’s layup while Gasol just watched is what sealed the deal though. Those 2 momentum building plays are what defined that game to me.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    As fu*king AMAZING as those comebacks were, I’ve never heard or seen anything remotely like what T-Mac did that night with the 13 in 35. That was just insane. “His” comeback was done in less than a minute. The other one’s were over a quarter, or a half.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Logues

    I love the c’s, but tmac’s comeback was insane, i remember watching that live and goin crazy, tmac was awesome. also, didnt rodney rogers hit like 3 threes in like ten seconds to come back and win the game a long ass time ago? robert pack was all over gettin steals and feedin big rod

  • Jon

    kobe standing head-to-head with jordan? talk about disrespect

  • Chris


  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    The most amazing comeback might have just happened. The Kings were down by 35 today yet still managed to beat the Bulls. Lol

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    ^^ Tyreke! And I love how he busted out Sam Cassell’s “Big Balls dance” in the 4th too.

  • http://nicekicks.com MeloMan2.0

    The Celtics have soo much edge… to me, that was the best finals of the decade… close behind is Detroit beating LA in 04