With their win over Indiana, the Golden State Warriors extend their run in 2015-16 to 23-0, and counting 2014/15, they have won the last 27 consecutive home games. Matching the record set by the 2012-13 Miami Heat, they can now lay their eyes upon the 1971-72 Lakers 33-game regular season winning streak.
So, who were the 1971-72 Lakers team?
Firstly, something more on them. They would finish the season with a 69-13 record (that is two wins more than the Warriors’ 67-15 and three short of the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10). Their streak would begin with a 110-106 win over the Baltimore Bullets (the franchise now known as the Washington Wizards), on 5th November, 1971. It would end with a 104-120 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on 9th January, 1972. It was a record that would see the Lakers be undefeated in the month of November and December. Till date, it’s the longest winning streak in the top 4 North American Professional Sports (Baseball, Basketball, American Football and Ice Hockey).
It was a team that consisted of Wilt Chamberlain, Pat Riley and Jerry West. Elgin Baylor would be playing his last season for the franchise he helped revive, and would hardly be involved because of a nagging knee injury. They were coached by Bill Sharman, who was part of the 1950s Celtics team, and would have a successful coaching career prior to joining the Lakers. He placed an emphasis on fastbreak offence and the tight defence (which pretty much played to Chamberlin’s exceptional rebounding ability).
The team were led in scoring by their starting backcourt duo of Jerry West and Gail Goodrich who were able to combine for around 52 points a game between them. Chamberlin and Happy Hairston were the board leaders for the Lakers, averaging a season double-double in points and rebounds each. Chamberlin for the 10th time in 13 seasons led the league in rebounding (no one has been close to his averages). Jim McMillan was the other member of the starting 5, able to provide nearly 19 points a game on average as well.
The Lakers’ bench was doing its job. LeRoy Ellis, Pat Riley, Flynn Robinson and John Trapp were the regular rotational players used. They were able to average around 15 minutes a game, and provided a fairly good punch when the starters rested. Like The Warriors’ streak, the Lakers had the best offence and a good defence through the duration of the steak (and the entire season, as a matter of fact).
The streak ended against Milwaukee and it is till date the longest winning streak in the top 4 North American Sports. And it is finally under threat, with a united Warriors team, with each and every member (like the old Lakers team) performing his best.
If comparisons need to be drawn, both teams are scoring well over 100 points a game and on average, have a large point differential. Currently, the Warriors have a 17 point differential and one of the most effective defences in the league and the most efficient shooting. They are yet to score less than 100 in a single game.
The Warriors have seven more games to beat the record, it’s a long 7 games, but then again, they are the only team that might be close to eclipsing this epic feat. The Warriors have a fairly easy trip to easily make it 32-0, until they finally meet Cleveland on Christmas, which will be the 33rd match of the streak, if they make it. After that, they might make history with their 34th match, against Sacramento.