Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic’s step-back 3-pointer has already taken on iconic status in NBA lore as one of the greatest buzzer-beaters in NBA playoff history. Add the wrinkle that it happened in the bubble, and it sticks out even more.
The 21-year old—playing on a sprained ankle—capped off his 43-point, 17-rebound, and 13-assist Game 4 masterpiece with a “Double Bang” over (inexplicably) Reggie Jackson to give the short-handed Mavericks a 135-133 overtime win and at the time, evened their series with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Why are we bringing this up?
Well, Doncic’s splash was measured at 28 feet—the second longest buzzer-beater in NBA playoff history.
As we continue to see the NBA stretch out in terms of long distance shots being chucked up, let’s look back on the five deepest game-winning buzzer-beaters in NBA playoff history.
5. Derrick Rose, Eastern Conference semi-finals, Game 3 — May 8, 2015
Rose polished off his 30-point, seven rebound, seven assist night by banking home a 26-foot three from the right wing, sending the United Center into a frenzy. The shot put the Bulls up 2-1 in their series with the Cleveland Cavaliers—and marked Rose’s finest moment for Chicago after returning from the devastating knee injury he suffered during the Bulls’ 2012 playoff run.
Cleveland would ultimately advance in six games, but Rose’s shot is still cool to watch.
4. Dudley Bradley, Eastern Conference first round, Game 1 — Apr. 18, 1986
Dudley Bradley, a shooting guard that rarely shot and averaged just 2.8 points per game in 1985-86, scored nine points in 15 minutes during this Game 1—and made only two field goals on the night.
But, he managed to make an incredible play here–catching the inbounds pass and reverse-spinning into a 27-footer heave, which he banked home to give the Washington Bullets a 95-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the beginning of the ’86 playoffs.
However, Philadelphia would go on to win the series in five tough games.
3. Eddie Johnson, Game 4, Western Conference Finals — May 25, 1997
At 37 years old, Johnson didn’t heat up like he used to during his prime, but Johnson produced one last glorious NBA bucket for the Houston Rockets.
In 24 minutes off the bench in Game 4 of the conference finals, Johnson scored just seven points on two field goals (both threes, plus one free throw)—but undoubtedly had the biggest triple.
A career 33.5 percent three-point shooter, the veteran momentarily expanded his range and swished home a quick-release 27-footer in front of The Summit crowd to give the Rockets a 95-92 victory over the Utah Jazz and tie the series at 2-2.
2. Luka Doncic, Game 4, Western Conference first round — Aug. 23, 2020
We covered this at the top. As ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry noted, Doncic is one of the game’s most frequent employers of the step-back three, and his three step-back attempts from downtown in the clutch minutes of Game 4 in 2020 are the most by any player in a postseason game since Second Spectrum started tracking those plays in 2013-14.
Even for Doncic, though, his cold-blooded game-winner over Jackson is on the deep side.
A legend in the making.
1. Damian Lillard, Western Conference first round, Game 5 — Apr. 23, 2019
Dame sized up George, then side-stepped into a step-back three as time expired, delivering the Blazers a 118-115 victory, along with his 50th points on the night (10-for-18 from downtown).
Lillard’s shot, along with Doncic’s step back to freedom and Kawhi Leonard’s miraculous corner fadeaway to win Game 7 of 2019 Eastern Conference semi-finals, have to be the three most memorable buzzer-beaters of recent NBA playoff history.
Bonus: Jerry West, NBA Finals, Game 3 — Apr. 29, 1970
Not a game-winner, but it’s worth mentioning in case you’re unfamiliar with one of the most underrated shots of all time.
After New York Knicks forward Dave DeBusschere’s short jumper put the Knicks up 102-100 with three seconds left and the Finals tied 1-1, “The Logo” received the inbounds pass from Wilt Chamberlain, took a few poised, determined dribbles up court, and launched an in-rhythm 60-footer that swished home to tie the game—temporarily stunning the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Of course, this was a decade before the three-point line, rendering West’s epic heave worth only two points. It’s certainly the deepest shot on this list—and has to be the farthest buzzer-beater to end regulation (or overtime) in playoff history.
The Knicks would top the Lakers in overtime, 111-108, and win the title in seven games.
In some ways, this shot is a microcosm of West’s career. The man they called “Mr. Clutch” consistently came up big in pivotal moments, but his Lakers teams went just 1-8 in the Finals.
There have been multiple 25-footers (a.k.a. deep, but not that deep) that have closed out playoff games worthy of mentioning, too.
- Lillard’s series-ender in Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference first round to send the Rockets packing.
- LeBron James’ catch-and-shoot fallaway on the Orlando Magic to win Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
- Stephon Marbury’s leaning bank three in transition to give the Phoenix Suns a 96-95 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 the 2003 Western Conference first round.
- Robert Horry’s iconic top of the key buzzer-beater off Shaquille O’Neal’s tip out to steal Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.