It doesn’t matter if it is a college game, an NBA season match or an NBA playoff, a basketball comeback is an achievement, filled to the edge with exciting emotions, drama and goosebumps. And of course, basketball games present an incredible number of betting opportunities. In the chapters below, we will discuss some of the greatest basketball comebacks in history, and we will provide you with interesting facts and statistics surrounding those thrilling games. On top of that, we will give you some suggestions for sports betting sites, so you can place some basketball bets, without worrying about the authenticity of the platforms or the availability of markets. Our recommended sportsbooks are 100% secure and you will find everything you need, in order to maximise your sports betting experience.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Golden State Warriors, 2016
The 2015-2016 NBA season was the 70th season of the National Basketball Association, and the 2016 finals were probably the greatest and most thrilling finals an NBA fan could ever dream of. It was a rematch of the finals the year before, between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. It was the second season after Lebron James had come home to his local club. He stated multiple times that he came back with one purpose – to bring a title to his city. He missed that chance in the 2015 finals, letting his team lose 4:2 to the Warriors. And if you think that the Warriors were just too good for the Cavaliers in 2015, then in 2016 the Cavs shouldn’t have stood a chance.
The Golden State Warriors were really very, very good. It was their greatest NBA season ever, with a record-breaking 73-9 regular-season record. Their stars were on fire the whole season, with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green playing magnificently. They were undoubtedly the bookmakers’ favourites with odds of -220 for winning the title. The Cavaliers had never won the NBA Finals. On top of that, no Cleveland-based professional team had won a championship of any kind since 1964. And now, finally, they had two chances in a row, but it looked like they were going to blow them both. After Game 4 of the Finals, the Cavaliers were down 3:1 to the Warriors: Game 1 – 89:104 for the Warriors, Game 2 – 77:110 for the Warriors, Game 3 – 90:120 for the Cavaliers, Game 4 – 108:97 for the Warriors.
No team in NBA history had ever overcome such a deficit. Lebron James and Co. had to win three games in a row (2 of which at the home of the Warriors) and didn’t have room for any mistakes. They had to do the impossible. Even some of the most loyal Cleveland fans were starting to gloom and didn’t think a comeback is possible. The must-win Game 5 finished 112:97 for the Cavaliers, and now they had to win Game 6 in front of their own fans in Cleveland. Lebron was absolutely unstoppable. He registered back-to-back 41 point-games in Games 5 and 6. Even the 2015 MVP Stephen Curry was finally silenced (as much as possible). The game finished 101:115 for the Cavs, and they were heading to the final Game 7. In the table below, you can see the odds for winning the title after each game:
|Team||Odds Pre-Series||Odds After Game 1||Odds After Game 2||Odds After Game 3||Odds After Game 4||Odds After Game 5||Odds After Game 6|
|Golden State Warriors||-220||-380||-1000||-500||-2500||-470||-220|
The season’s Finals marked the first time in NBA history in which both teams entered Game 7 with the same total points scored through the previous six games – 610 points each. The game, as predicted, was very close. There were a total of 20 lead changes and 11 ties. Golden State led at halftime, 49:42, thanks to an amazing first half play by Draymond Green – he had 21 points in the first half, outscoring all other players. But James and Irving took over in the second half, scoring 30 points combined.
The Cavaliers outscored the Warriors 51-40 in the third and fourth quarter, as the Warriors failed to score a basket during the last few minutes of the game. In the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, Lebron delivered what became known as “The Block” on a layup attempt by Andre Iguodala with the scored tied at 89-all and 1:50 remaining in the game. Kyrie Irving made a go-ahead 3-point field goal over Curry to give Cleveland a 92:89 lead with 0:53 remaining. Golden State brought the ball up-court, opting not to call a timeout, but Kevin Love stopped Curry, making arguably “the biggest defensive stop of the entire NBA season” .
After that, Lebron was fouled on a dunk attempt and he nearly clinched the title for the Cavaliers by making one of two free throws with 10.6 seconds left in the game. The Warriors tried a 3-pointer by Stephen Curry, but the attempt missed and was rebounded by Speights of the Warriors, who attempted another 3-pointer, as time expired, and also missed. The game was over. Lebron was down on all fours, crying on the court. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving (the other two of the Cav’s Big Three) went to James and celebrated together. The impossible dream was achieved. Leading his team with a seventh career finale triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists), Lebron refused to be denied his third NBA championship and a third finals MVP trophy.
For decades, being down 3-1 in the NBA finals was like a death sentence. All 32 teams that went down 3-1 in the history of the Finals went on to lose the series. Every single one. The achievement of the Cleveland Cavaliers was unbelievable. Astonishing. Unforgettable. The greatest NBA comeback.
Denver Nuggets 103:107 Utah Jazz (1996)
The NBA league in the years before 2000, maybe wasn’t filled with so many stars and elite athletes like it is nowadays, but still produced some marvellous games, some of which holding records to this day. One of those remarkable games was the meeting between the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz. It is the biggest comeback in NBA history. From 36 points down, the Utah Jazz claimed a shocking victory in front of their home crowd at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.
The team of Utah were heading into the game after a seven-game winning streak and no one expected that they would start the game as bad as they did. The Jazz gave up 70 points in the first half, finishing the first two quarters 37:19 and 33:17. They were 34 points behind at half time, and Denver’s lead would increase to 36 points at the beginning of the third quarter. The crowd was booing their own team and some fans even left their seats and headed home.
“We certainly got embarrassed in the first half.” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. ”I felt sorry for the fans, and they should have booed us. I don’t have a problem with that.”
Utah trailed 74:41 with 9:03 left in the quarter when the comeback began. They completed a 16:0 run to make the score 74:57. After Dale Ellis hit three of four free throws in two possessions, the Jazz outscored the Nuggets 15:8 through the end of the quarter to make it 85:72. The deficit was reduced to only 13 points, and after such a strong quarter, the win looked doable for the Utah players. The feeling of an incredible turnaround started to spread not only among the players but among the crowd too. Another superb run of 19:6 in the final quarter, capped by a 3-pointer by Chris Morris, tied the game at 91-all, with 4:38 minutes remaining.
Utah took their first lead with 3:02 left on the clock after two free throws by Hornacek made the score 94:95. The Nuggets were trying to stay in the game, but it was like they couldn’t believe they led such a lead slip through their fingers. With 1:16 left, Hornacek hit his jumper from the right corner and made the score 98:100. Denver’s Bryant Stith answered with a 3-pointer. Utah took the lead again after a 3-point shot by Hornacek, and after a Denver turnover, Bryon Russel scored a dunk, putting the Jazz ahead for good. With 5.7 seconds left in the game, Stockton put the game out of reach with two free throws, making the score 103:107. Denver missed two 3-point attempts as the time ran out. Karl Malone finished the night with 31 points and 17 rebounds, while the sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek contributed with 29 points, 5 of which in the final 1:16, capping the monumental comeback.
Sacramento Kings 102:98 Chicago Bulls (2009)
The second-biggest comeback in NBA history is the meeting between the Sacramento Kings and the Chicago Bulls. The game took place in the United Center in Chicago, back in 2009. The Kings managed to overcome a 35-point deficit and stun their bitter rivals. For most of the night, the game was all Chicago. The home team was absolutely dominating the Kings and took a 19-point lead in the first quarter (19:38). In the second quarter, the Bulls continued with their commanding play, outscoring the Kings 24:29. Chicago were dominant throughout the first half and the beginning of the second half didn’t show any signs for a turnaround. With 8:50 minutes left in the third quarter, the Bulls led 44:79 and were playing very strong.
Two minutes later, the score was 50:83. And then something happened. Maybe the Kings finally clicked and started to produce outstanding plays, or maybe the Bulls thought the game is already won, so they can slow down and play more relaxed, waiting for the game to be over. Regardless of the reasons, the result was that the Bulls collapsed. Sacramento finished the quarter with a 19:5 run, making the score 69:88. The feeling of something special was scattered around the United Center, and even though the Bulls supporters tried to support their team and give them the strength to keep their advantage and win the game, the Sacramento Kings were determined and unstoppable.
Ime Udoka scored 15 of the Kings’ next 22 points, as the Kings decreased the Bulls’ advantage to only 4 points, making the scoreboard show 91:95. And that is when Tyreke Evans, the outstanding rookie guard from Memphis, took over. Over the final 2:13, Evans personally outscored the whole Chicago team 9:3. Led by his team-high 23 points, the Kings crushed the Bulls in the final quarter, outscoring them by 23 points (33:10). Despite the 26 points from Luol Deng and 24 from Derrick Rose, the Bulls were unable to hold off the furious Sacramento comeback. In the fourth quarter, the Bulls were 2-for-10 from the field and had 9 turnovers. The Kings, meanwhile, shot 11-for-21, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over only twice. When the final buzzer sounded, it was the away team who came on top by a final score of 102:98. The Bulls were booed off the court. It was the largest comeback in the history of Sacramento and to this day the game holds the second position in the largest turnarounds in the NBA history as well.
College Basketball – Drexel 85:83 Delaware (2018)
After those top NBA comebacks, it is time to give an example of a turnaround game in the college basketball league. The largest comeback was seen in the oldest and most-played game in the league – Delaware – Drexel. It is probably the biggest rivalry in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). It happened on February 22, 2018, and the game saw the Drexel Dragons overcome a 34-point deficit. The second-biggest comeback in this division was way back, in 1950, when a 32-point deficit was erased by the team of Duke. After their record was beaten, they congratulated Drexel’s team on the social media platforms.
The match was held at the home of the Drexel Dragons – the Philadelphia Daskalakis Athletic Center, and the Drexel supporters surely had their impact in this terrific comeback. But as they say – there are comebacks and there are blown leads. Not that we want to take away from the astonishing accomplishment of the Drexel team, but giving away a 34-points lead is embarrassing. The Delaware Blue Hens were ahead 34 points with 2:36 left in the first half. At halftime, the score was 56-29 and the Hens went into the break proud and cocky.
But a Drexel rally was inevitable. By the end of the third quarter the Dragons were obviously inspired by their play and the feeling of an epic turnaround was starting to spread among the fans. The home team continued to play very aggressively and the promising guard Tremaine Isabell was the engine of their attacks. He tied the game with a 3-pointer with 3:50 left on the clock. The Dragons took the lead for the first time in the game with 1:58 left. The two teams traded jump shots and with 1:14 to go the score was 83:81 for the Dragons. Both teams missed shots before Delaware scored to make it 83:83 with 10 seconds to go. A foul against Isabell was called with 02.2 left on the clock and he made two free throws, giving the Dragons an 85:83 lead. He finished the game with a game-high of 29 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. Delaware’s Eric Carter tried a shot from about 25 feet away in a desperate attempt to save themselves the embarrassment but the ball only hit the backboard, as time expired. Drexel, which allowed 56 points in the first half, scored the same total in the second half to earn the improbable and breathtaking win and set the record for the largest comeback in college basketball history.
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In case you are interested in reading about more outstanding comebacks, not only in basketball but in other sports too, then check out our article about the The Greatest Sports Comebacks. You will learn some fascinating facts about some of the greatest athletes the world of sports has seen, featuring Tiger Woods, Mohammad Ali, Monica Seles and more.