Unless it’s your team that’s getting victimized, comeback wins are super fun to watch. It’s always packed with replay value too. There’s just something about seeing a group of guys claw their way back into the game, steadily build up rhythm, ride a red-hot momentum, and finally arrive at the culmination: victory. You’re witnessing a different level of fight, determination, and teamwork.
We just saw a solid example in one of the recent playoff games. Down 3-1 in the series and facing a 65-82 deficit late in the third quarter, the Denver Nuggets suddenly rose from the dead to stun the LA Clippers with a surging 111-105 win. It was a blur as they just raced past the Clipps in the last eight minutes.
It’s certainly not going to be the last, and the next one can very well happen at the very next playoff game we’ll see. Year in and year out, the postseason has no shortage of insane games and endings.
With all that hype, it’s a good time to look back at some more classic playoff comebacks, especially from the last decade. The 2010s were filled with storylines and game-changing talent, so this is a good list.
Portland Trail Blazers over Dallas Mavericks (23 points) – Game 4, 2011 Western Conference First Round
The Blazers were down by 23 points in the third quarter and entered the final period trailing 49-67.
Without warning, Portland’s ailing All-Star, Brandon Roy, who missed 35 regular season games due to an ankle injury, took over in the fourth. He scored 18 of his 24 points in the quarter and guided Rip City to an 84-82, come-from-behind, series-tying win. The 18 big points outscored the entire Mavs team.
LA Clippers over Memphis Grizzlies (27 points) – Game 1, 2012 Western Conference First Round
The Clippers were down by as much as 27 points and trailed by 24 with only 7:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The comeback was a total team effort but it was Chris Paul that led the rally as he dished out seven assists in the final period. Nick Young was a catalyst as well, burying three three-pointers in consecutive possessions to cut the lead to three with under two minutes to play. They unleashed a 28-3 run to end the game and win, 99-98.
This game was Paul’s playoff debut as a Clipper.
San Antonio Spurs over LA Clippers (24 points) – Game 3, 2012 Western Conference Semifinals
The Spurs were down by as much as 24, a 40-16 deficit midway in the second quarter.
Tim Duncan had 11 points in the third quarter and got help from Danny Green and a then-rookie Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting. The three powered the run as the Spurs completely owned the Clipps in the period, 26-8, which included 24 unanswered points. San Antonio won the game, 96-86.
Houston Rockets over LA Clippers (19 points) – Game 6, 2015 Western Conference Semifinals
The Rockets were facing elimination and down by 19 points with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
With James Harden getting benched, the unlikeliest players led the comeback: Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, two guys who have become memes for their bricks. The “duo” combined for 29 fourth quarter points on 9-for-13 shooting, including five three-pointers. Houston won, 119-107.
Cleveland Cavaliers over Indiana Pacers (26 points) – Game 3, 2017 Eastern Conference First Round
The Cavaliers were down by as much 26 points and entered the third quarter trailing 49-74.
LeBron James guided the climb back. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both getting benched in the entire fourth quarter, The King got ample support from Channing Frye and Kyle Korver as the two combined for 17 points and four three-pointers in the final period.
James had 28 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in the second half to finish with a man-sized triple-double of 41-13-12. Cavs won, 119-114.
Oklahoma City Thunder over Utah Jazz (25 points) – Game 5, 2018 Western Conference First Round
The Thunder were facing elimination and down by 25 points, 46-71, with 8:21 remaining in the third quarter.
Russell Westbrook and Paul George carried OKC in their backs in the final 16 minutes. Westbrook scored 33 of his 45 points in the second half, and George was right there with him as he tallied 21 of his 34 points in the same stretch. The Thunder survived, 107-99.
LA Clippers over Golden State Warriors (31 points) – Game 2, 2019 Western Conference First Round
The Clippers were down by 31, 63-94, with 7:25 remaining in the third quarter.
The run started slowly late in the third and fully picked up in the final period, where the Clipps shot 62.5% and outscored the Warriors, 41-23. Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Danilo Gallinari stirred the comeback by combining for 35 fourth quarter points. Williams, however, was the overall star as he kept attacking the Dubs defense and scored 29 of his 36 points in the second half. The Clippers won the high-scoring affair, 135-131.