Where Does Sonics’ Comeback Rank?
Posted Mar 28 2007 9:58PM
March 27 -- Basketball is a game of runs. In hoops, momentum is more than just an energy, more than a word, more than a cliché. Momentum is a tangible aspect of the game that impacts how teams succeed on offense and on defense. A stop yields a rebound, which leads to a fast break and, hopefully, a high-percentage shot. When a team has to take the ball out of the net, its opponent has a chance to set up its defense and, hopefully, force another tough attempt. The dance continues.
For this reason, runs and comebacks are an inevitable part of the action. It's why no lead is safe and what makes our game fun to watch. The Sonics' comeback from a 25-point third-quarter deficit in an eventual 114-106 win at the Timberwolves on Tuesday is a prime example.
But it wasn't the biggest comeback of the season.
That distinction belongs to the Trail Blazers, who overcame a 27-point hole in a home win over the Hornets on Nov. 10. The very next night, the Cavaliers stormed back from 25 down to top the visiting Celtics. No team had staged a comeback bigger than 21 points in the 900 some-odd games between mid-November and late March.
The Sonics were far from the most likely candidates to pull off the feat. Before Tuesday, they had overcome double-digit deficits only six times in their 27 wins; only four teams had less such comebacks. Just one of those wins was from 15 points or more behind, and only two teams are without a victory in such a scenario.
Utah is, by almost any measure, the NBA's premiere comeback squad. The Jazz have the most comeback wins from 10 or more points (16), 15 or more points (seven) and 20 or more points (two).
Where one team sees a huge comeback, another sees a wasted opportunity. The Wolves have now lost four games in which they led by at least 15, and nine in which they led by double figures at one point or another.
Ironically, no team has lost more games in which it led by 10 or more points than Seattle, which has endured 13 such collapses. (Denver also has 13.) The Nets have blown a pair of 20-point leads, and New Jersey's five 15-point letdowns tie a league-high.
The average largest deficit for an eventual winner over the season's first 1056 games has been 6.00 points. Excluding the 149 wire-to-wire victories (in which the winner never trailed), the average largest deficit moves up to 6.99 points - one could call that the average NBA comeback.
All in all, there have been 366 leads of 20-plus points this season; 145 (39.6 percent) resulted in 20-plus-point wins, 306 (83.6 percent) resulted in double-digit wins, 355 (97.0 percent) resulted in wins, and just 11 of those seemingly insurmountable edges resulted in losses. It suffices to say that 20-point comebacks are few and far between.
But what about other large advantages?
Of 290 leads that peaked between 15 and 19 points, 231 (79.7 percent) resulted in victories. And of 418 bulges that topped out between 10 and 14 points, 251 leaders (60.0 percent) went on to win. Overall, teams with double-digit edges have a 77.9 percent success rate.
But truly great comebacks are more about timing than anything else - overcoming a 10-point second-quarter deficit is run-of-the-mill. Doing that in the game's final minutes is the stuff of legend. The Sonics' 51-18 burst in the game's final 17 minutes, including a 25-2 closing run, certainly makes this comeback a noteworthy one.