Boston’s Insane 26-Point Comeback Had Big NBA Playoff Implications

Boston overcame a 26-point deficit to notch the NBA's biggest comeback this season. What does it mean for the Celtics?

It’s often said the NBA is a game of runs, but the runs are usually a little shorter spurts than what we saw in Wednesday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.

First of all, let’s set the table.

Miami (48-33) and Boston (47-34) entered the game with nearly identical records. On the final night of the regular season, these two, fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, were among the few teams who went at it with their full rosters instead of resting stars. It stands to reason we’d get 48 minutes of closely-contested hoops.

We didn’t.

Just look at this win probability graph from numberFire Live.


Miami took the game by the horns with a 23-4 first-half run. The Heat led 35-13 after one quarter of play and blew it open to a seemingly insurmountable 26-point advantage.

With 48 seconds left in the first half, the Heat had commanding 60-34 lead and a 94.3 percent chance of winning the game, per numberFire Live.

With 1:50 left in the third quarter, Miami’s lead had dwindled to 67-63, and their win probability had shrunk down to 51.35 percent.

So, what in the world happened in that 10-minute, 58-second stretch?

Well, not much scoring by the Heat.

The Celtics went on an astounding 31-7 run over that nearly 11-minute span, including a 20-0 spurt, outscoring Miami 25-5 in the third quarter. The Heat’s third-period futility set a new franchise low for points in a stanza, and it also set a defensive record for Boston.

Once the Celtics nosed in front at 72-69 on that Kelly Olynyk and-one with 9:38 left in the game, they didn’t break stride. Boston opened up a 10-point lead with just under a minute to go and eventually won the game by that margin, completing the biggest comeback in the league this season, according to

As you can imagine, there’s some fun to be had with numbers, and we like numbers (and fire, duh).

Let’s take a look at some cool stuff.

There was only one lead change in the entire game.

The Celtics outscored the Heat 60-26 in the second half.

With 7:09 left in the third, Miami had a 75.82 percent win probability. With 8:47 left in the fourth, Boston had a 79.2 percent win probability.

The Heat went scoreless for 7:08 in the third.

And, perhaps craziest of all, Boston won by double-digits after trailing by 26 points.

Future Implications

Miami, Boston, Charlotte and Atlanta all finished the regular season with identical 48-34 records. Despite the loss, Miami clinched the 3 seed and a first-round matchup with the Hornets while the Celtics are the 6 seed and will face off with the Hawks.

To make the night even sweeter for Boston, the Nets lost to finish with a miserable 21-61 record, the third-worst mark in the league. Why does this matter for the Celtics? Because Boston owns Brooklyn’s 2016 first-round pick.

In addition to the Nets’ pick, Boston has Dallas’ first-rounder and their own first-round selection. The Celtics could have up to five second-round picks this summer, and further into the future, they own three extra first-rounders.

Wait, there’s more!

Boston is in a superb situation with their payroll thanks to having several key players on team-friendly deals.

Things are looking up in Beantown.