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Long NBA Winning Streaks That ALMOST Happened

26 Apr

By winning 27 straight games in 2013 Miami Heat not only reached a second place on list of the longest winning streak in NBA history but they also reminded everybody about the difficulty of Lakers’ remarkable feat of winning 33 games in a row and received insurmountable amount of media attention because they were so close.
While the answer may seem obvious, was it really the best opportunity to break the record?

This is a story about forgotten heroes: the longest winning streaks in the NBA that ALMOST happened but because of couple untimely points here and there they didn’t so very few remember them.

My approach to find them was pretty simple, using all-time NBA schedule and results from basketball-reference.com I tried to locate multiple winning streaks next to each other interrupted by some close losses. Because I had history in mind I ignored potential streaks shorter than 18 games [only 9 such streaks really did happen] and to make it somewhat realistic all losses during them had to be by single-digits.

Such searching pattern surprisingly came up with 90[!] potential winning streaks. Some of them were literally one basket away from happening while others needed more to change but would have broken the record!

So let’s break them down starting with the ones single game away… [list is sorted by potential streak’s length]

Team Start Date End Date Lost This One Game by Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Chicago Bulls Nov 27 1995 Feb 2 1996 6 13+18 32
Los Angeles Lakers Feb 4 2000 Apr 5 2000 7 19+11 31
Miami Heat Feb 3 2013 Mar 31 2013 4 27+2 30
Boston Celtics Nov 4 2008 Dec 23 2008 9 6+19 26
Detroit Pistons Jan 23 1990 Mar 20 1990 9 13+12 26
New York Knicks Oct 14 1969 Nov 28 1969 3 5+18 24
Miami Heat Nov 29 2010 Jan 9 2011 2 12+9 22
Dallas Mavericks Dec 13 2006 Jan 23 2007 3 13+8 22
Philadelphia 76ers Dec 13 1966 Jan 23 1967 8 11+9 21
Chicago Bulls Dec 20 1991 Jan 25 1992 5 6+13 20
Los Angeles Lakers Oct 29 1972 Dec 13 1972 5 13+6 20
Philadelphia 76ers Nov 8 1966 Dec 10 1966 5 8+11 20
Dallas Mavericks Jan 22 2011 Mar 4 2011 1 10+8 19
Utah Jazz Feb 4 1998 Mar 16 1998 2 7+11 19
Boston Celtics Oct 26 1985 Dec 4 1985 2 8+9 18
Chicago Bulls Nov 6 1991 Dec 14 1991 3 14+3 18
Los Angeles Lakers Feb 22 2011 Apr 1 2011 6 8+9 18
San Antonio Spurs Dec 5 2003 Jan 10 2004 6 13+4 18
Sacramento Kings Dec 23 2001 Feb 3 2002 6 12+5 18

There are 19 entries here, more than twice as many suck streaks as really happened but it still wouldn’t change how impressive and rare such feat really is.

Interestingly recent Miami’s streak wasn’t the first one from their current core: Heat were one basket away from 22 wins in a row in their first season there!

But surprisingly to me, even if all the balls bounced the more friendly way, Lakers’ streak record would stay intact. So let’s widen the search to include instances with TWO losses…

Team Start Date End Date Lost Two
Games by
Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Boston Celtics Dec 5 1964 Jan 27 1965 1+4 7+16+3 28
Rochester Royals Jan 9 1949 Mar 12 1949 8+5 10+3+13 28
Cleveland Cavaliers Nov 3 2008 Dec 28 2008 7+5 8+11+6 27
Chicago Bulls Feb 10 1998 Apr 7 1998 5+7 8+4+13 27
Philadelphia 76ers Nov 27 1984 Jan 16 1985 4+3 7+4+13 26
Utah Jazz Mar 2 1997 Apr 20 1997 7+2 5+15+4 26
San Antonio Spurs Nov 1 2010 Dec 22 2010 9+5 12+2+10 26
Denver Nuggets Feb 23 2005 Apr 15 2005 5+9 8+6+10 26
Seattle SuperSonics Jan 12 1996 Mar 5 1996 3+3 3+6+14 25
Utah Jazz Dec 12 1994 Feb 1 1995 8+1 8+14 25
San Antonio Spurs Feb 16 1996 Mar 31 1996 3+5 3+2+17 24
Dallas Mavericks Jan 6 2006 Feb 27 2006 2+9 3+13+6 24
Los Angeles Lakers Nov 7 1985 Dec 21 1985 1+4 7+8+5 22
Milwaukee Bucks Oct 24 1970 Dec 8 1970 9+1 16+4 22
Boston Celtics Nov 14 1990 Dec 26 1990 6+6 8+3+8 21
San Antonio Spurs Mar 2 1999 Apr 8 1999 5+2 9+3+6 20
San Antonio Spurs Nov 6 2001 Dec 21 2001 5+3 7+10 20
Detroit Pistons Nov 28 2007 Jan 4 2008 7+3 5+2+11 20
Chicago Bulls Mar 13 1996 Apr 18 1996 1+1 6+6+5 19
Boston Celtics Jan 27 1980 Mar 7 1980 1+1 7+9 19
Boston Celtics Nov 12 1984 Dec 18 1984 5+3 10+4+3 19
Minneapolis Lakers Jan 18 1954 Feb 16 1954 7+9 11+3+3 19
Boston Celtics Dec 30 1982 Feb 4 1983 4+2 7+3+6 18

23 more possible candidates – including some very unlucky ones with two losses by a single point! – yet winning streak of 33 would still be out of reach. It does make it more impressive for me.

So let’s take another step, here’s the rest of the list sorted by 1) how many losses occurred during that period and 2) how long streak would have been without them.

Team Start Date End Date Losses Lost Those
Games by
Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Chicago Bulls Nov 3 1995 (1st game) Feb 2 1996 3 6+5+6 5+5+13+18 44
Phoenix Suns Nov 11 2006 Jan 28 2007 3 3+5+2 2+15+17 38
Los Angeles Lakers Dec 11 1987 Feb 28 1988 3 1+2+2 15+2+7+10 37
Houston Rockets Jan 4 2008 Mar 16 2008 3 5+4+8 5+4+22 34
Boston Celtics Nov 2 2007 (1st game) Jan 5 2008 3 2+5+2 8+3+9+9 32
Phoenix Suns Nov 3 2004 (1st game) Dec 26 2004 3 5+2+4 4+9+11 27
Boston Celtics Oct 29 2010 Dec 22 2010 3 2+5+1 5+3+14 25
San Antonio Spurs Mar 1 2002 Apr 17 2002 3 5+3+1 13+9 25
Miami Heat Jan 26 2005 Mar 19 2005 3 5+4+2 3+7+12 25
Los Angeles Lakers Nov 11 1981 Dec 29 1981 3 9+8+5 9+2+5+6 25
Dallas Mavericks Nov 8 2010 Dec 27 2010 3 2+5+4 4+12+5 24
Milwaukee Bucks Dec 12 1969 Jan 25 1970 3 2+1+2 7+4+5+4 23
Orlando Magic Dec 3 2008 Jan 17 2009 3 1+6+6 4+7+2+7 23
Utah Jazz Feb 6 2000 Mar 25 2000 3 2+9+2 2+5+9+4 23
Milwaukee Bucks Dec 16 1984 Feb 2 1985 3 5+4+4 9+11 23
Detroit Pistons Feb 23 2004 Apr 12 2004 3 8+1+9 4+8+8 23
Chicago Bulls Feb 19 1992 Apr 3 1992 3 2+2+3 3+3+8+5 22
Los Angeles Lakers Mar 3 1986 Apr 12 1986 3 1+1+6 9+4+3+3 22
Chicago Bulls Feb 9 2011 Mar 26 2011 3 5+3+7 4+3+8+4 22
Portland Trail Blazers Oct 21 1977 (1st game) Dec 6 1977 3 3+2+7 3+6+8 21
Chicago Bulls Feb 22 1977 Apr 5 1977 3 5+6+2 7+8+3 21
Phoenix Suns Feb 19 2010 Apr 2 2010 3 3+8+6 5+2+10 21
Philadelphia 76ers Oct 30 1981 (1st game) Dec 12 1981 3 7+5+8 4+10+4 21
Milwaukee Bucks Feb 26 1985 Apr 4 1985 3 1+2+2 2+6+8 20
Philadelphia 76ers Nov 11 1983 Dec 27 1983 3 5+5+7 3+6+2+6 20
Team Start Date End Date Losses Lost Those
Games by
Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Chicago Bulls Nov 1 1996 (1st game) Jan 17 1997 4 5+3+8+5 12+5+8+9 38
San Antonio Spurs Jan 29 2003 Apr 11 2003 4 8+7+8+7 9+4+6+11 35
Minneapolis Lakers Dec 25 1949 Mar 2 1950 4 3+6+1+2 6+3+4+14+3 34
Washington Capitols Nov 16 1946 Feb 8 1947 4 5+9+9+9 17+5+5+3 34
Boston Celtics Dec 28 1985 Mar 7 1986 4 4+5+7+2 4+13+3+8 33
New York Knicks Dec 17 1968 Feb 15 1969 4 1+4+3+1 10+6+11 32
Cleveland Cavaliers Dec 11 2009 Feb 11 2010 4 7+3+2+1 5+7+2+13 32
Boston Celtics Oct 21 1961 Dec 28 1961 4 6+2+3+3 4+5+5+9+5 32
Los Angeles Lakers Jan 7 2009 Feb 26 2009 4 1+6+7+4 4+4+7+6 25
Memphis Grizzlies Feb 11 2004 Apr 2 2004 4 7+2+8+3 5+7+7 24
Utah Jazz Jan 19 1996 Mar 8 1996 4 1+7+3+9 4+4+2+4+6 24
Portland Trail Blazers Dec 22 1991 Feb 14 1992 4 4+5+4+7 4+2+4+6+4 24
Boston Celtics Oct 29 1982 (1st game) Dec 15 1982 4 4+4+7+3 4+8+5 23
Oklahoma City Thunder Mar 2 2011 Apr 11 2011 4 6+2+7+6 3+6+5+5 23
Phoenix Suns Feb 6 2000 Mar 22 2000 4 5+1+3+5 8+5+5 22
Denver Nuggets Feb 16 2011 Apr 3 2011 4 1+6+3+5 3+3+4+6 20
Team Start Date End Date Losses Lost Those
Games by
Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Phoenix Suns Jan 9 1990 Mar 16 1990 5 4+8+2+8+6 10+3+9+8 35
Boston Celtics Nov 22 1958 Jan 14 1959 5 9+9+4+7+6 6+11+8 31
Detroit Pistons Jan 3 2006 Feb 27 2006 5 4+7+8+1+2 2+11+2+2+6 28
Phoenix Suns Dec 1 1992 Feb 23 1993 6 1+9+3+4+4+1 14+2+2+6+5+3 38
San Antonio Spurs Nov 10 2004 Jan 8 2005 6 5+3+6+1+6+5 6+8+4+5+3 32
Seattle SuperSonics Dec 17 1996 Feb 25 1997 6 5+8+2+1+7+4 5+9+2+7 29
Boston Celtics Jan 16 2008 Mar 12 2008 6 2+3+1+6+2+8 3+2+5+10 27

Well, it was possible multiple times! Three two possession games could have changed the history… but they didn’t. 4, 5 and 6 losses is probably a stretch but I included them here anyway.

One could argue that Bulls from 1995 to 97 were one giant possible streak. In their 72-win season they had many long winning streaks and they had 2 double-digit losses all year!

Finally, let’s relax assumptions a little bit. When I threw out “no double-digit losses” and tried to maximize the streak’s length I came up with such monsters…

Team Start Date End Date Losses Lost Those
Games by
Real Winning Streaks Potential Streak’s Length
Dallas Mavericks Dec 13 2006 Mar 11 2007 2 3+11 13+8+17 40
Miami Heat Feb 3 2013 Apr 17 2013 2 4+12 27+2+8 39
Chicago Bulls Nov 6 1991 Jan 25 1992 3 3+13+5 14+3+6+13 39
Dallas Mavericks Dec 13 2006 Mar 30 2007 4 3+11+17+2 13+8+17+9 51
Philadelphia 76ers Oct 15 1966 (1st game) Jan 23 1967 4 18+5+14+8 7+8+11+11+9 50
Los Angeles Lakers Nov 5 1971 Feb 9 1972 4 16+1+3+14 33+8 47
Philadelphia 76ers Dec 21 1982 Mar 20 1983 4 11+6+5+6 14+6+10+7 41
Boston Celtics Nov 9 1980 Jan 28 1981 4 15+2+10+15 6+2+3+12+13 40
Milwaukee Bucks Dec 20 1970 Mar 8 1971 5 12+7+9+12+23 5+10+2+3+20 46
Utah Jazz Jan 20 1997 Apr 20 1997 5 3+2+10+7+2 5+7+2+5+15+4 43
Philadelphia 76ers Oct 15 1980 Jan 14 1981 5 12+4+4+6+1 12+10+10+6 43
Boston Celtics Dec 28 1985 Apr 4 1986 6 4+5+7+2+2+1 4+13+3+8+14 49
Portland Trail Blazers Dec 9 1977 Feb 28 1978 6 9+9+1+11+2+7 7+7+3+7+6 38
Washington Capitols Nov 16 1946 Mar 19 1947 7 5+9+9+9+18+6+6 17+5+5+3+15 52
Los Angeles Lakers Oct 27 1962 Feb 2 1963 7 1+4+22+14+3+5+2 6+9+6+11+8 50
Boston Celtics Oct 11 1972 (1st game) Jan 26 1973 7 11+7+3+3+6+7+11 10+4+3+9+10 47

Yes, Heat were also two games away from 39 in a row but what really caught my eye here was 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks. 2 losses from 40-game winning streak? And a theoretical 51?? So much potential and I didn’t remember it… so I’m glad I did this… I hope you too ;-)

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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Casually Unique

 

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