The Cleveland Cavaliers recently engineered the greatest second-half comeback in NBA playoff history when they rallied from 25 down at the half to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-114.
Amazingly, that broke a record that stood for nearly 70 years, ever since the Baltimore Bullets came back from 21 down to beat the Philadelphia Warriors 66-63 in the 1948 NBA Finals.
In an era without the 24-second clock and a three-point line, the Bullets came all the way back to win, on Philadelphia’s home floor no less. And it remained the largest comeback for 70 years, a lifetime of games. None of the great Celtics or Lakers team or Jordan’s Bulls or the Spurs or anyone else ever made a bigger comeback,
In 1948, the defending champion Warriors, fresh off their Game One victory, rolled to a 41-20 halftime lead over the Bullets. “In those days, if you got behind that far, the game was over,” Baltimore player-coach Buddy Jeannette recalled years afterward. “There was no 24-second clock to help you come back. But somehow we did. We took our time and made our shots and caught ’em. I don’t know if we were so good or Philly was so bad.”
Philly’s leading scorer Joe Fulks helped matters by continuing to shoot — and miss. And the Bullets helped themselves by driving to the basket for good shots. The home crowd sat stunned. The Bullets cut the gap to 48-40 in the third quarter. Then, in the last period, it was all Baltimore. “We were up by one with four seconds to go, and I tipped in a missed free throw,” Bullets forward Paul Hoffman recalled.
Connie Simmons led the Bullets with 25 points that night, Hoffman had 12 and Kleggie Hermsen 10.Joe Fulks led the Warriors with 27, most of them in the first half.
The 66-63 victory was one of the more impressive comebacks in sports history. Unfortunately, nobody paid much attention to pro basketball then. The story received a few paragraphs on the back page of The New York Times. Still, it gave the Bullets the momentum they were looking for.
The Bullets went on the win the series in six games for their only NBA championship. The Bullets were, in effect, an expansion team in the 1947-48 season having come over from another league, the American Basketball League to the Basketball Association of America, which would become the NBA beginning in 1949. The Baltimore franchise folded in 1954, and the Bullets remain the only defunct team to win an NBA championship.
The Baltimore Bullets returned to the NBA in 1963, after two years in Chicago as first the Packers and then the Zephyrs. They became the Capital Bullets in 1973, the Washington Bullets in 1974 and the current Washington Wizards in 1997. The Bullets beat the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games in 1978 to win their only NBA title.
I play in a 16-team league called FLAKS (Fantasy League All-Stars, Kontenders and Slackards) which this year is celebrating its 24th season. FLAKS is made up primarily of communications professionals. Many of us are former journalists who worked together at IBM at certain points. In the early years, before the Internet, we literally kept our own stats. Now every pitch is recorded.
Many years back FLAKS became an auction league. Each year, shortly before Opening Day, we gather together to draft our teams. Do the math. 16 teams, 25 players per team, that’s 400 players. And we bid on every player, one player at a time, one dollar at a time.
The draft normally takes up the better part of 12 hours. This year, for the first time, a dead man, the former Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, was drafted. And we had an epic bidding war for Kris Bryant of the Cubs, which wound up in a league record $60 price.
Following the draft, CBS Sports evaluates our draft. My team, SportsLifer, received a D this year, but fear not. Those grades are based on a snake draft, not auction. Last year CBS gave me an A, and yet a week into the season SportsLifer was in the basement. Eventually, after a series of trades and pick-ups, we managed to climb into a tie for seventh place and finished in the money.
This is my 2017 squad. Although not a superstar-studded roster, it appears to be a well-balanced squad. And it will evolve over the course of the season, one week a time. We’ll see what happens.
C — Gary Sanchez, NYY
1B –- Eric Hosmer, KC
2B — Jonathan Schoop, Bal
SS – Jonathan Villar, Mil
3B – Nick Castellanos, Det
OF – Dexter Fowler, StL
OF – Adam Jones, Bal
OF – Hunter Pence, SF
DH – Brandon Moss, KC (1B, OF)
1B – Josh Bell, Pitt
OF – Howie Kendrick, Phil
OF – Nick Markakis, Atl
OF — Tyler Naquin, Cle
OF – Josh Reddick, Hous
SP – Gerrit Cole, Pitt
SP – Johnny Cueto, SF
SP – JA Happ, Tor
SP — Rick Porcello, Bos
SP – Blake Snell, TB
RP – Mark Melancon, SF
RP – Jim Johnson, Atl
SP – Brandon Finnegan, Cin
SP – Mike Montgomery, Cubs
DL – Didi Gregorius, SS, NYY; Collin McHugh, SP, Hou