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Don't call it a comeback

6/3/2011

The Dallas Mavericks completed a thrilling 15-point, fourth-quarter rally Thursday night to top the Miami Heat, 95-93, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. The Mavs closed out the game on a 22-5 run to erase a double-digit deficit and stun Miami on a last-second, left-handed layup by Dirk Nowitzki. The series is now even at one game apiece as it shifts to Dallas for three games.

A 15-point rally? Impressive, but simply child's play compared to what the 2001-02 Celtics accomplished in the postseason. Here's the Associated Press game story after Boston rallied from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun the New Jersey Nets, 94-90, in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals:

BOSTON (AP) -- When the final buzzer sounded and the miracle was complete, the Boston Celtics celebrated like it was the end of Game 7 instead of Game 3.

Paul Pierce's teammates mobbed him at center court until he broke free and jumped atop the scorer's table. Coach Jim O'Brien's ever-present poker face disappeared, the most stoic of NBA coaches pumping his fist to the crowd and walking triumphantly off the court.

The Celtics pulled off the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history Saturday night, with Pierce scoring 19 of his 28 points in the final 12 minutes as Boston overcame a 21-point deficit to beat the New Jersey Nets 94-90.

"It was purgatory, it might have been closer to Hell for three quarters, but that last one was Eden. Damn, that was great," O'Brien said.

No team had ever come back from more than an 18-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, and Pierce certainly didn't look like a candidate to rescue his team after missing 12 of his first 14 shots.

But he began driving to the basket with reckless abandon in the final quarter, and the Celtics never relented as they outscored the Nets 41-16 in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

That’s what the Celtics’ amazing 21-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Nets in Game 3 was like. It was a Green Wave, washing over the Nets like helpless ants. Not only did it give Boston a 2-1 series lead in its Eastern Conference finals series, but it has to also be devastating to New Jersey’s confidence.

The Nets might not win another game.

"At the start of the fourth quarter, we just wanted to fight and make a statement for the next game that we're going to be a team to be reckoned with. I think we did more than make a statement," Pierce said.

Unfortunately for Boston, that statement fell on deaf ears with New Jersey. While Boston boasted a 2-1 series edge after that Game 3 triumph, the Nets responded by taking the next three games to win the series in six games.