Vladimir Stankovic's list: Top 10 biggest comebacks

Mar 19, 2017 by Euroleague.net Print
Vladimir Stankovic's list: Top 10 biggest comebacks

Throughout my almost 50 years in this job, plus a few more as a fan, I have seen, heard about or read about many great comebacks in basketball games. Here are my memories on the topic, but I'd like to point out that I included single-game comebacks but also elimination rounds comebacks in two games. The order is not important, but the main spots are for comebacks that happened in the modern EuroLeague. I am sure there were more comebacks, but these are the ones I remember. I will be grateful if someone can provide more!

10. CSKA Moscow-Real Madrid, 1963

The continental final saw two great rivals play for the title. It was a historic game also because it was the first time that the Franco regime allowed a Soviet team to play on Spanish soil. The game took place on June 23, 1963 in Madrid in front of 5,000 fans. Real Madrid won the game 86-69 with a great game by Carlos Sevillano, with 26 points, and Emiliano Rodriguez with 24. The second game took place just eight days later in Moscow in front of 20,000 people in a court inside the Lenin football stadium. CSKA won by a tight 17 points, 91-74, to tie the series. Regulations at that time specified that another tiebreaking game had to be played in the same venue the following day, so CSKA used the home-court advantage to win by 99-80, with 26 points by Genadiy Volnov to win its first European crown ever.

9. Partizan Belgrade-Cantu, 1989

In that season's Korac Cup, Partizan and Cantu faced each other in the final. Cantu had won the first game at home by 89-76 with 24 points by Kent Benson. Vlade Divac's 28 were not enough for Partizan that night, so the deal would have to be sealed in the second game, played in Belgrade. On March 22, 1989, Partizan had made up 12 of those points at the break, 55-43, and then made it 19 at the end of the game, 101-82, to win the title. Divac shined again with 30 points. Cantu was not even saved by Antonello Riva's 36 points.

8. Estudiantes Madrid - Olimpija Ljubljana, 1988

Earlier that same season and in the same competition, the Korac Cup, Estudiantes visited Olimpija in Ljubljana and lost by 26 points, 96-70. Dusan Hauptman (29 points) and Radodslav Curcic (24) were the executioners that night for the hosts. The game in Madrid was played on November 9, 1988 and Estudiantes won by 92-65! At the break, the Spanish team had only recovered 11 points, but in the second half, John Pinone (22) and Juanan Orenga (20) led a great Estudiantes comeback.

7. Zalgiris Kaunas - Cibona Zagreb, 1989

The old Cup Winners Cup saw Cibona and Zalgiris in the same quarterfinals group. In this game, Zagreb welcomed a Zalgiris team with Sabonis, Kurtinaitis, Chomicius, Iovaisha... I cannot swear if Cibona was winning by 95-77 or 91-77 midway through the second half, but I did see in a video that at one point, Cibona was leading 91-56. Zalgiris started hitting threes like crazy. The team ended the game with 22 made threes and a 45% efficiency. Sabonis was playing with 4 fouls since the start of the second half, but he was decisive in the last minute with two points to make it 101-104 and the rebound later. A great game by Aca Petrovic (36 points) was useless because Zalgiris won in the end.

6. Olimpia Milan - Partizan, 2011

This specific game didn't have much importance for the outcome of the season of neither team involved, but it just goes to show that the game is not over until the final buzzer. At the halftime break, Milan was leading by 12 points, 31-19. A three by Stefano Mancinelli made it 45-24 in minute 26, but there were still 14 minutes to go. At the end of three Partizan was still trailing by 17, 56-39. Ioannis Bouroussis made it even a wider gap at the sart of the last period, but then the Partizan fest started. Nikola Pekovic, Vladimir Lucic, Dragan Milosavljevic and current Milan player, Milan Macvan, teamed up for a huge comeback. Partizan ended up taking the game 65-69 as Macvan had 18 points and 11 boards.

5. Olimpia Milan - Darussafaka Dogus, 2017

Another game with Milan, but with a different outcome. The scoreboard at the Mediolanum Forum displayed a 43-68 in the third quarter. There was virtually just one team on the court, Darussafaka. However, in the last 15 minutes Milan managed to hit a 46-19 run that allowed them to win the game 89-87! Davide Pascolo gave the first advantage to his team with 90 seconds to go, 84-82, and Rakim Sanders opened the way to the win with 30 seconds to go. The biggest comeback of this season so far.

4. Olimpia Milan - Aris Thessaloniki, 1986

I swear I am not writing the history of Olimpia Milan, but I can remember several comebacks on games with this powerhouse. One of them belongs to the 1986-87 season. In the second elimination round, Milan played against Aris. In Greece, the Italian team lost by 31 points, 98-67. The second game was played on November 6, and before the game, legendary coach Dan Peterson told his players: "I want the win, even if it's by just one point. But if we manage to score one more point than them every minute, we will win by 40 points." Milan was leading at the break by 44-30, but the final score was 83-49! It was the biggest comeback ever in European competitions. Milan reached the final group and won the group to then defeat Maccabi in the title game by 71-69. Unforgettable.

3. CSKA Moscow - Maccabi Tel Aviv, 2014

In the semifinals of the 2014 Final Four in Milan, CSKA was ahead over Maccabi at the break, 38-30, and again in minute 30 by 55-40. Maccabi reduced the deficit to 10 points, 55-45, 53 seconds later, but drama was nowhere on sight. In minute 34, CSKA was dominating, 60-51. Finalist you say? Maccabi did not agree to that. A three by David Blu to make it 54-60 opened a new game, even if Milos Teodosic kept the Russian team going strong in minute 36 for 62-54. The big run started with Ricky Hickman's three, and then Tyrese Rice made the game closer, 62-59 with 2 minutes to go. CSKA got some air through Nenad Krstic, but it was not enough. Later in the game, with CSKA leading by 4, 67-63, Blu pulled up for another three to make it a one-point game, 67-66, with seconds to go. Victor Khryapa turned the ball over in CSKA's chance, and then Rice drove to the basket an sealed the deal with virtually no time left for anything else, 67-68.

2. Olympiacos Piraeus - Real Madrid, 2013

In the championship game at the London Final Four, nobody placed their money on the Reds after the first quarter, dominated by Madrid 10-27. Things got a little better in the second quarter (27-14), but Real Madrid was still ahead. Spanoulis had not scored a single point in the first half, but he ended the game with 22, shooting 5 of 9 from downtown. Olympiacos went from behind by 17 in the first quarter to winning by 12 at the final buzzer (100-88) and became just the second team with 100 or more points in the final, just after Maccabi Tel Aviv scored 118 against Skipper Bologna in 2004. Spanoulis was, of course, named MVP.

1. Olympiacos Piraeus - CSKA Moscow, 2012

It likely is the largest and most dramatic comeback ever in a game for the title. CSKA was ahead by 19 points, 53-34, late in the third quarter. However, little by little, Olympiacos climbed back thanks to a 2-21 run and even managed to win the game when Georgios Printezis scored a basket for the ages with 0.7 seconds to go to make it 61-62. The three big protagonists of the game were Printezis, Vassilis Spanoulis, who gave the assist for the final basket, and coach Dusan Ivkovic. The three of them explain it in detail in the excellent documentary about Spanoulis, "Limitless", produced by EuroLeague Basketball last month.