Killing time in my toasty hotel room before the Warriors take on the Bucks tonight in frigid Milwaukee (-14 degrees as we speak, with a -30 wind chill), I decided to go back and take a look at the two longer franchise winning streaks on record, the 11-gamer in 1971-72 that still stands as the benchmark, and the 10-gamer in 1975-76 which the Warriors can tie tonight with a victory over the Bucks, who own the NBA’s worst record at 7-26.
What I learned rather quickly about the two longer streaks is that they weren’t nearly as impressive as the current 9-gamer the Warriors have put together. Yes, the Warriors have made some hay against some pretty bad teams, but nothing like those prior teams did.
The Warriors’ 71-72 club, which included Warriors broadcaster Jim Barnett as well as stars Nate Thurmond, Cazzie Russell and Jeff Mullins (Rick Barry was playing in the ABA at the time), started its 11-game streak on Dec. 29, 1971 and ran it through Jan. 22 of 1972 before it ended with a 110-105 loss at Chicago two days later. You have to respect any winning streak that long, but to be frank, it’s not an eye-popper when you dissect it. Only two of the victories came against teams with a winning record at the time the Warriors played them, a 128-109 home win against the 29-14 Boston Celtics followed by a win 115-111 victory over the 15-11 New York Knicks in a game played in San Diego for some reason. I’ll have to ask Barnett about that one tonight. The rest of the victims were under .500 clubs, many of them well under.
That streak did launch the ’71-72 Warriors toward a playoff drive, however, after a 19-19 start. They finished 51-31, losing in the opening round Western Conference semifinals to of all teams, the Milwaukee Bucks. That Bucks team had a 24-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who averaged 34.8 ppg that year in his third NBA season) plus Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge.
Another interesting fact: The Warriors’ longest streak ever was not even sniffed at in ’71-72. That season, the eventual NBA champion Lakers led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West set the all-time record of 33 straight wins that still stands today.
OK, so how about the ’75-76 club that ran off a 10-game streak from Dec. 6 to Dec. 23, ending with a 113-110 home loss to Houston on Dec. 27? That was a heck of a club, one that won an NBA-best 59 games that year and was deemed better than the team that won the NBA title the previous year. Those Warriors, led by Barry, Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith and a sensational rookie named Gus Williams, were already off to a 12-6 start when they hit a very soft spot in their schedule. Their 10-game streak featured just one opponent with a winning record (a middling 11-8 Detroit team in the midst of a 9-game losing streak) and five of the wins were achieved at the Coliseum Arena. The Warriors had a much more impressive stretch later that season, when they won 9 of 10 against significantly better competition.
Of course, that team was upset in the Western Conference finals in seven games by the Phoenix Suns. The Game 2 loss against the Suns in Oakland was the first NBA game I ever witnessed. They also lost Game 7 at home.
So let’s look at this year’s streak. Five of the nine wins have come against teams with winning records at the time the Warriors played them — Denver, the L.A. Clippers, Phoenix, Miami and Atlanta. Six of the nine wins have come on the road. One of those road wins came against the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. In short, it’s just a far, far more impressive streak than the other two longer ones.
With that in mind, it’d be nice to see these Warriors finish out this road trip at 7-0 with wins in Milwaukee and Brooklyn, then come home against Boston on Friday and officially establish a new franchise streak of 12 wins in a row. This current run deserves a spot in the record books by itself.