As if the race to reach Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs didn't have enough drama already, with 11 teams chasing seven spots still open with just four games to play for most of them, TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz made things even more dramatic to start Round 30.
Down 14 points on the road at Zenit St Petersburg with less than 5 minutes to play on Thursday, Baskonia looked very much poised to lose, which would have boosted the chances of several other teams to qualify for the playoffs in the next 48 hours.
But that boost never came because Baskonia proceeded to score the next 19 points in little more than 4 minutes on the way to a stunning 75-79 victory.
As it turns out, that rally was history-making for more than its effect on this year's playoffs race. Since at least the 2007-08 season, when such data was first tracked, no team before had recouped as many as 14 points with under 5 minutes to play in the fourth quarter to win a game in regulation time – let alone a game so loaded with playoffs implications.
Indeed, by combining the deficit Baskonia faced with its margin of victory in the end, it could be said that Baskonia last week put on the biggest end-of-regulation rally in at least the last 14 years.
Baskonia was trailing by 14 points and won by 4 for a total swing of 18 points in under 5 minutes. The next-biggest swing over the final 5 minutes of the fourth quarter for a winning team without overtime was Partizan making up a 13-point deficit to beat Milan in the 2011-12 season.
All the other top-eight turnarounds by the same criteria started with deficits of 10 points or more and came earlier in the season. Six were regular season games and one came in the first round of the Top 16. All of which makes Baskonia's not only the biggest swing of its kind, but also the most consequential, coming at the height of the playoffs race.
Incidentally, if you were to count comebacks in the last 5 minutes to force overtime and then the extra 5 minutes that followed, Baskonia also has the record. On March 11, 2010, in the sixth and final round of the Top 16, with a playoffs berth on the line, Baskonia erased the same 14-point deficit with 3 minutes left against Cibona Zagreb and then went on to win by 12 points in overtime, for a record 28-point swing over just 8 minutes!
Baskonia's record run from last Thursday may yet reverberate well beyond Round 30. That's because Baskonia now has as many opportunities to influence the standings as any other playoffs contender.
This week, Baskonia (16-4) hosts AX Armani Exchange Milan (19-11). In the second game of two rounds next week, Anadolu Efes Istanbul (19-11) pays a visit to Vitoria-Gazteiz. Finally, Baskonia ends the season on the court of Valencia Basket (16-14).
If Baskonia and Valencia are still vying for playoff spots in that final round, the repercussions will go beyond even the EuroLeague. Under the current rules, either a EuroCup champion or runner-up now playing in the EuroLeague may retain its place there by reaching the playoffs. If Valencia, the only such team with that possibility, does not advance to the playoffs, both semifinals winners from the EuroCup this spring will become eligible to join the EuroLeague next season. If Valencia reaches the playoffs, however, only the EuroCup champion will be eligible.