Biggest Fourth Quarter NBA Comebacks
You’re sitting at home, watching the NBA. The game has been nothing but action so far, and one team has pulled ahead by double digits as the third quarter winds down. As the commercials come to life on your television, you take a gander at your sportsbook app. There, waiting for you, is a live bet offer for a fourth quarter comeback prop bet.
Sure, the game has not gone well for the trailing team up to this point. But those odds are magnificent, and if the underdog can pull it off, you’ll get a large return on your bet.
Do you go for it?
That’s a question just about all bettors ask themselves in these situations. Can Team A come back to defeat Team B despite having failed to gain the lead so far in the game? Can Team A overcome its deficit to shock the fans, pundits and its opponent?
Most bettors will tell you there is a very slim chance of this happening — and they aren’t wrong. More often than not, a wager for a fourth quarter comeback in basketball, especially when significantly trailing, is going to end up losing.
But there’s still that sliver of hope that lives inside us all, and for many of us it is hard to resist such a potential payout.
If you’re just getting started with in-game betting on NBA games, then you’re going to ask yourself this question over and over and over: How much is too much for a potential comeback? Is making a wager on those longshot odds going to be worth it?
To be blunt, it probably won’t be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t entertain the idea, or even place a few small bets when the opportunities arise.
The next time you see the option for a fourth quarter comeback prop on your sportsbook app, you don’t have to jump on Google to find information on the biggest fourth quarter comebacks in basketball history. Instead, we’ve assembled this handy guide to help you with your research and to show you just how magnificent a fourth quarter NBA comeback can be.
Live betting NBA moneylines & shifting odds
Completely understandable. It can be confusing when you’re watching your sports betting app and you see the odds for live betting fluctuate all over the place. So why is that?
The explanation is pretty simple, actually. Because the wagering is live and based on the action happening on the court in real-time, the odds of a particular event happening either increase or decrease. If you’re wagering on the Los Angeles Lakers to lead at the end of the third quarter, and they suddenly go on a run in the middle of that stanza, then you can expect the odds to shift. The Lakers are making it clear they have a better chance at being well in the lead at the third-quarter buzzer, so oddsmakers and sportsbooks are going to shift those odds in an effort to avoid losing too much money.
Sportsbooks are a business, after all, and they need to keep their income flowing. That income happens to be you, the bettor, and they make more when you lose a bet. That’s why you’ll see such attractive odds when it’s more unlikely to be a winning bet.
If you want to learn the ins and outs of live betting, aka in-game betting, please check out our page on it. You’ll learn all you need to know about betting at NY sportsbook apps, which are a key part of the live betting process.
Greatest 4th quarter comebacks in NBA history
We’ve sorted through the box scores and old articles and to come up with this list of the greatest fourth quarter NBA comebacks.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Atlanta Hawks — Nov. 25, 1977
Milwaukee trailed Atlanta throughout this game only to squeak past the Hawks in the end by just two points, 117-115. The teams seemed well-matched, with similar records to that point of the season. During the first quarter, Atlanta took the lead, handling the Bucks easily for a 35-22 advantage. Milwaukee rallied a little in the second quarter, scoring another 33 points to Atlanta’s 29, but couldn’t get ahead. It looked as if they were done for in the third quarter when the Hawks put up a commanding 40 points while the Bucks struggled to score 21.
As the fourth quarter began, Atlanta was comfortably in the lead, 104-76. Fans and broadcasters alike were convinced the Hawks would coast to a convincing victory. Then there was a sudden reversal of fortunes as the Bucks began to find their stride and Atlanta stumbled and fell flat. In the largest fourth quarter comeback in NBA history, led by forward Junior Bridgeman with 24 points, Milwaukee put 41 points on the board while holding Atlanta to just 11 and took home the victory. That fourth quarter differential is also still the fourth highest final quarter point difference in NBA history.
Here’s the box score from Basketball-Reference.com.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Lakers — Dec. 6, 2002
This Lakers’ comeback seemed unlikely for a few reasons: The Mavericks, who came into the game with a 17-2 record, looked like the superior team to the Lakers, who were just 8-13 at that point in the season. The Lakers were also struggling as their star, Shaquille O’Neal, was out for surgery for the beginning of the season, and had just returned to play. Dallas was dominant from the start and kept the lead all the way up to the fourth quarter, when LA turned the tables by putting up a largely unanswered 44 points, and pulled out the win by two points, 105-103.
How did this second biggest 4th quarter NBA comeback happen? The Lakers had a dismal first half, only managing 36 points to Dallas’s 74. The third quarter was an improvement for LA, keeping pace with the Mavs, though they were still trailing by 27 at the start of the fourth quarter. But the Lakers had a young Kobe Bryant on their side, and he put up 21 points himself in the fourth.
Toronto Raptors vs. Dallas Mavericks — Dec. 22, 2019
If you’re a Mavs fan, the last entry on this list must have stung. This is just salt in that wound. Sorry, folks, but the numbers don’t lie. At least there were 17 years between the two games.
The first-quarter action was a pretty even exchange as the two teams took each other’s temperatures, but in the second and third quarters, Dallas took a comfortable lead, 51-42 at the half and ahead by 23 points, 86-63, at the start of the fourth.
The Raptors weren’t ready to hand the Mavs the win, though, and dug deep to score a massive 47 points in the fourth quarter while limiting Dallas to just 21. The 110-107 final is the largest ever comeback victory in the Raptors’ history. Much of the comeback can be credited to Kyle Lowry’s 20 4th quarter points, supported by another 12 points from Chris Boucher and nine from Terence Davis.
Boston Celtics vs. New Jersey Nets — May 25, 2002
In Game 3 of the 2002 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics found themselves trailing the Nets 74-53 after three quarters of play.
After outscoring the Celtics in the first quarter, 28-13, the Nets took a 54-34 halftime lead into the locker room. After continuing to dominate in the third quarter and maintain their lead, it looked as though New Jersey would take a 2-1 series lead in the conference finals.
But then some of the Boston magic happened. Paul Pierce opened the fourth with three baskets in a row and ended up scoring 19 of his 28 points in the final quarter. He was joined by Kenny Anderson, who added nine, and Rodney Rogers, who had six (including two clutch free throws in the final minutes). In total, the Celtics rallied to score 41 points in 12 minutes, taking the lead for the first time in the game and winning, 94-90.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies — April 29, 2012
You can always expect teams are going to fight right to the end of pretty much any postseason NBA game. The rumble between the Clippers and the Grizzlies in the first round of the 2012 Western Conference playoffs found Memphis in control right out of the gate. The Grizzlies were in front of their home stands, and the fans were going wild as their team took a 58-39 halftime lead before expanding on it for an 85-64 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 21 points, the Clippers made some adjustments and used every player on the court to unsettle the Grizzlies. Six players scored in the final quarter, led by Blake Griffin and Nick Young. Most fans will probably remember Chris Paul at the free-throw line with less than 30 seconds left in the game, draining both of his shots from the charity stripe to give Los Angeles a one-point lead.
Rudy Gay had a chance to give the Grizzlies a win with a last-second jumper, but the shot missed its mark and the Clippers escaped with a 99-98 victory. Los Angeles would go on to win the series, too, in a tightly contested first round, 4-3.
Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans — April 23, 2015
There’s a chance you’ve heard of an NBA player named (checks notes) Steph Curry. If so, then it won’t surprise you to hear that when his Warriors were struggling in Game 3 of the first round of the 2015 NBA Western Conference playoffs, Curry put the team on his back and brought them on one heck of a wild ride.
Unlike a lot of comeback stories, this particular game wasn’t won by an underdog fighting its way back against a superior foe. In fact, the Warriors were greatly favored in the series, were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and had already won the first two games of the series.
Despite winning the first two games (106-99 and 97-87), the Warriors found themselves trailing by 20 points heading into the fourth quarter, 89-69. And while the fourth quarter comeback didn’t lead to the actual victory (that was a 15-11 advantage for the Warriors in overtime), it doesn’t change the fact that this was one of the most impressive come-from-behind 4th quarter moments in the history of the NBA.
Golden State erased a 20-point deficit to New Orleans, tying the game at 108-108 on a last-second three-point shot by Curry. When all was said and done, the Warriors were victorious, 123-119.
They went on to win the series by defeating New Orleans in the fourth game, 109-98. They would also go on to win the NBA Finals, taking the best-of-seven series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2.
Sacramento Kings vs. Chicago Bulls — Dec. 21, 2009
While coming back from 19 points down in the fourth quarter to get a win is impressive, the Kings and their fans will probably want to point out that they actually rallied to come back from 35 points down during the third quarter. But this list is about the fourth quarter, so we’re not going to get into all those details.
The Bulls looked to be in charge of this game, which was being played during the winter solstice — the longest night of the year. For Sacramento fans, it must have felt like this one was indeed taking forever as their team fell behind 38-17 to start the game, and still trailed 67-43 at the half.
But starting in the third quarter, the Kings began to show life. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, rookie Tyreke Evans was finding his groove. He scored 11 of the Kings’ 33 4th quarter points, with Ime Udoka leading the way with 15 of his own. Chicago could muster only 10 points in the final period, and the Kings earned a 102-98 victory for an early Christmas present to their fans.
Should I place an NBA 4th quarter moneyline bet?
If you’re convinced that the team trailing heading into the fourth quarter is going to come back, then you should feel as though the bet is a valid one. Of course, as we stated at the beginning of this page, these bets lose far more often than not.
But what’s to say you shouldn’t place a few fun bets in situations like these? As we noted with the examples above, fourth quarter comebacks in the NBA can and will happen. Taking the chance on a fourth quarter moneyline, especially if the leading team has been faltering throughout the second half, could lead to a nice return on your wager.
The larger the deficit for the trailing team, the better the odds are going to be. Even the team that was favored by oddsmakers heading into the game could end up with sports betting odds that work really well for you. And if it is a team you already researched and handicapped and saw a favorable outcome for, why not take a small chance?
All it takes is a one-point lead when the final buzzer sounds to get the payout.
We want to stress, however, that taking these risks often will definitely not work in your favor in the long run. We view these fourth quarter comeback moneyline bets as more of a fun part of the sports betting hobby and can never suggest it is a regular part of your betting strategy.
Additionally, we want to stress that you should never chase losses. If you think you’ll win your money back by placing a high-risk wager on a big fourth quarter comeback, you’ll find yourself in an even more precarious position following the game. Be smart, use your head and stick to your bankroll.
And if you need assistance, reach out to the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-522-4700.
What’s the likelihood of a 4th quarter comeback in the NBA?
Fine, fine — so you want to really break down the numbers and stop just living on dreams? Well, you’re not going to love what we have to say.
First and foremost, the likelihood of the home team making a fourth quarter comeback is slightly higher than that of a road team. Those percentages change based on how large the deficit is, too. Based on NBA games played over a 14-year period, this is what we know (the numbers past the percentage points indicate the record for the teams that trailed by that number of points heading into the fourth quarter):
|Home Team Deficit After Three Quarters
|Likelihood of a Fourth Quarter Comeback
|Road Team Deficit After Three Quarters
|Likelihood of a Fourth Quarter Comeback
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Wagers to compliment NBA 4th quarter comeback bets
If you’ve decided to go ahead and take the chance on putting down a serious wager on a fourth quarter NBA comeback, then there are a few other bets you could look at to complement that.
First and foremost would be a prop bet for which team will score the most points in the fourth quarter. Since the come-from-behind team has to do that in order to win, it just makes sense.
You can also look at prop bets for which team will have more three-point field goals, which team will have more turnovers, and even at over/under bets (also known as totals bets) for the fourth quarter.
If you’re going to place a comeback bet on an NBA game and you seriously believe there is a chance of it happening, then you really should take the time to look over the other in-game betting opportunities that make sense to run with.
The trailing team will have to force turnovers, will have to shoot threes, and will have to score more points than its opponent in order to win. If you truly believe the team is going to come away with a victory, it would be foolish to overlook other complimentary wagers.
But keep in mind, like we stated at the beginning of this guide and broke down in specific numbers in the table above, there is a much, much greater likelihood that the team that is leading by a significant amount will be the one that takes the victory. Keep that in mind whenever you’re considering placing a bet on a fourth quarter comeback.