The top five greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history

New York, New York - With the 2022 NBA Playoffs almost at the final stage, fans have been kept on the edge of their seats by some spectacular basketball.

Boston Celtics celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston Celtics celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.  © GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Shocking blowouts, surprising upsets, and spectacular rebounds – this year's journey to the championship game hasn't been short of excitement.

Now, with the Finals almost upon us, it's time to have a look back at the most incredible comebacks when it mattered most.

From Miami turning up the Heat on the title favorites, to a championship-winning turnaround by the Lakers, it's all about the late drama.

Nuggets reward back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic with richest contract in NBA
NBA Nuggets reward back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic with richest contract in NBA

Take a trip down memory lane with these five historic games in the NBA Finals.

1. Dallas Mavericks at Miami Heat, Game 3, 2006 Finals

Down 2-0 in the series, the Miami Heat were trailing 89-76 with 6:33 remaining. Dwyane Wade scored 12 points to lead a 22-7 run to close the game but it was Gary Payton who made a game-winning jump shot with nine seconds left.

The Heat closed out the Mavericks in six games to win the franchise's first championship off the back of that titanic comeback.

2. San Antonio Spurs at Miami Heat, Game 6, 2013

With 28 seconds remaining, the San Antonio Spurs seemed to be just moments away from a 4-2 series win and another NBA title.

Up by four points, Manu Ginobili headed to the free-throw line to ice the game, as some fans headed to the exits. However, he made just one of his two shots, while LeBron James made a three-pointer with 20 seconds to go.

After missed foul attempts by Kahwi Leonard, Miami secured the rebound, down three points with 19 seconds left. Chris Bosh, who grabbed the rebound of LeBron's failed three-pointer, kicked it to a backpedaling Ray Allen, whose corner jumper with less than six seconds remaining forced the game into overtime.

In the extra game-period, the Heat was able to hold the slim lead and win, 103-100, after the Spurs missed a last-second three-pointer shot.

The Spurs not only lost game 7, but the championship title as well.

3. Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers, Game 4, 2008

Up by 2-1, the Boston Celtics found themselves pulling off the biggest single-game comeback in the NBA Finals over the last 40 years. The Celtics were trailing the Lakers by 24 points on the road in the third quarter, after being outscored 35-14 in the first quarter and 72-57 in the second.

Better late than never, the Celtics finally started to heat things up as they ended the third quarter on a 21-3 run, which cut the score to 73-71. Spurred by 35 points from their bench, the Celtics took a lead with around four minutes remaining that they would not relinquish, taking the game 97-91.

The Lakers would take Game 5, but Boston finished them off in Game 6 to earn their league-leading 17th championship.

4. Boston Celtics at Los Angeles, Game 7, 2010

Two years later, it was the Lakers’ time to shake things up.

Boston was headed to another championship, and led LA 49-36 with just a little under nine minutes remaining. They carried the momentum as Kobe Bryant was having a terrible game, with his shooting stats at 6-of-24.

Up stepped Pau Gasol to carry the Lakers with 19 points and 18 rebounds, including nine at the offensive end, while a Lamar Odom tip-in at the buzzer cut the deficit to just four points heading into the fourth quarter.

The Lakers completed a 32-15 run and took a 68-64 lead midway through the fourth, on a Derek Fisher three. A three from Ron Artest with just a minute remaining gave the Lakers a six-point lead and buried the Celtics to win their 16th NBA championship title.

5. Houston Rockets at Orlando Magic, Game 1, 1999

By far the wildest comeback on this list, the Rockets trailed the Magic 57-37 with just 3:35 remaining in the first half, as Orlando looked to be in cruise in control.

However, Clyde Drexler dominance helped Houston cut the trail to just 11 points by the break. Still, the Magics led by seven points at the start of the fourth quarter, in good a lead standing.

With just 10 seconds left, Nick Anderson stormed to the free-throw line, with his team up three points. Missing both of his attempts, but he got the offensive rebound off his second miss and was fouled again. But Anderson somehow missed both of those attempts as well and Smith’s three-pointer with two to go left forced an overtime.

The Magic tied the game with just 5.5 seconds remaining in overtime, but Olajuwon iced the comeback, as he tipped home a missed layup from Drexler with three-tenths of a second on the clock.

Utterly shaken by the night's game, the Magics were never able to come back from this performance and Houston ended up sweeping the series.

Cover photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

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