In the NBA playoffs, you can never guarantee a series is over until one team runs out of games to come back from. Most of the time when a team races to a series lead they can’t be caught, but sometimes drama unfolds, and we get the most amazing comebacks ever.
1997 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Miami Heat 4-3 New York Knicks
Throughout the late 1990s, there was a fierce rivalry between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. This postseason matchup would actually be the first of four consecutive matchups between the Knicks and the Heat. Thankfully it started things off with a bang.
The Knicks came into the semifinal feeling pretty fresh after sweeping the Hornets, while the Heat came off a tough-fought five-game war with the Magic. The Knicks were in great form and took the first game of the series to make it five wins in a row. The Heat were going to have to do something special to stop the Knicks when they were playing so dominantly.
Miami got the next game, but the Knicks took full advantage of their home games and raced ahead 3-1. In game five, Miami really did turn up the heat, and they destroyed the Knicks, beating them by 15 points. The game will be remembered for P.J. Brown flipping Knicks point guard into the crowd with two minutes to go, which sparked a huge brawl.
Doubts were rising in the Knicks camp, and the momentum had shifted. The Knicks lost a lot of players due to penalties handed out by officials, and the Heat flexed their muscles to take the series 4-3 convincingly.
2006 NBA Finals, Miami Heat 4-2 Dallas Mavericks
When you looked at their regular season records, there was really only one winner in the 2006 NBA Finals. The Mavericks were so strong and had posted an impressive 60-22, the third best in the league. With Miami making it to the finals though, they couldn’t be counted out. The Mavericks on paper were the better team, they just had to go out there and get the job done.
After two games, Dallas were up 2-0 and looked to be coasting to the championship after recording double-digit wins in each game. With six minutes left to go in the third game, Dallas were up by 13 points, but one man changed his team’s fortunes that night.
A young Dwayne Wade, in just his third year as a pro, turned on the style and recorded 42 points to bring the Heat their first victory of the series. In the fourth game, the Heat won all four quarters, and had the momentum behind them.
Miami won the fifth game with two free throws in the final seconds of play to record a 101-100 victory. Wade kept the pressure on in the sixth game, and his 36 points helped Miami complete what looked like an unlikely comeback for the franchise’s first NBA championship.
1969 NBA Finals, Boston Celtics 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
In the 1969 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics never managed to be in front during the series until the final game. The Lakers team, including icons like Chamberlain, West, and Baylor, took the first game of the series before adding the second too. Boston were a great team during the ‘60s too though, and with Bill Russell as their player-coach, they had a shot, even if they were an aging team.
The Celtics had always done well against the Lakers in the Finals and but had to dig really deep to pull the series back to 2-2. Jerry West was enjoying himself out there and helped the Lakers take game five, to put them within one victory of the championship.
West was once again the man in game six, scoring 40, but the rest of his team wasn’t on his level, and the Celtics scored a double-digit victory. Now it was all down to the one final game. Boston had been leading for much of the game, but in the fourth quarter, the Lakers fought back. Don Nelson hit one from 18 feet to extend the Celtics lead before theLakers grabbed a late basket but ended up losing the game 108-106, and the dramatic finals.
2016 Western Conference Finals, Golden State 4-3 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Golden State Warriors had made a habit of appearing in the NBA Finals, but in 2016 their place was seriously under threat. They were trailing 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals series to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and things didn’t look good. Golden State knew they had the players, but did they have the grit and determination to take the long road back from 3-1 down?
The stakes were high, but the Warriors were able to overcome anything Kevin Durant threw at them thanks to the consistent scoring of Thompson and Curry. Golden State realized they didn’t want to come up against Durant in that kind of form ever again, so signed him for the following season. The Warriors managed to take the Western Conference Finals by 4-3.
2016 NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers 4-3 Golden State Warriors
No team in the NBA Finals had even been able to fight back from 3-1 down to win. Golden State had just come off the dramatic 4-3 win over the Thunder, and now they were on the receiving end of a huge turnaround. The Cavaliers gave the Warriors a taste of their own medicine as they came back from 3-1 to become the first team in history to do so in the NBA Finals.
It was yet another crowning moment for LeBron James, who claimed his third championship ring in this series. Golden State looked determined to get the finals over and done with quickly, but despite being so close to victory, the Cavs made their epic fightback. 2016 was the year of the 3-1 comeback.
The NBA is yet to see anyone come back from a 3-0 in what would be the ultimate playoffs comeback. Until then we’re pretty sure these are the most dramatic playoff comebacks ever witnessed in the NBA.