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Art Garcia

The Celtics had an early winning streak but have struggled to get anything going since.
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Winning streaks are hard; starting another one harder

Posted Mar 16 2010 10:58AM

In position to extend their winning streak longer than anyone else this season, the Mavericks fell flat Saturday night. Big time flat. Losing to the Knicks at home -- by 34 points -- took some of the shine off a 13-game romp that lasted nearly a month.

"You especially don't want it to come to an end like this, but at the same time it was a great run," Dallas forward Shawn Marion said. "Now it's time to start another one."

Starting is one thing. Extending streaks into double-digit territory has been a chore for the league's elite. Only four teams this season have managed at least 10 consecutive victories. The Mavericks joined the Cavaliers, Lakers and Celtics in that class.

There's a good chance this season's champ comes out of the group of teams that own the longest winning streaks. Another quartet had streaks just shy of 10, with the Jazz and Thunder enjoying nine-gamers while the Magic and Nuggets ripped off eight straight at one point, too.

Much has to come together during a winning streak. The offense clicks, teams lock down defensively and Lady Luck lends a hand. Remember the banked-in 3-pointer Kobe Bryant hit against Miami to keep alive a Lakers' streak that reached 11?

Those good vibes can be fleeting. The Celtics have been around .500 since their winning streak ended, though they hope they have that elusive feeling back after Monday's win over Detroit.

"It's just fun to be a part of. It reminds you of a time when we were playing, I think, at our best," Boston center Kendrick Perkins said. "On the defensive end we were playing great defense and rebounding, and running, and guys were denying the ball."

Opponents, at least good ones, don't fear winning streaks, and once they're broken it's difficult to start another one. Boston coach Doc Rivers recently read a Los Angeles Times article to his team about the Lakers acknowledging their recent struggles. What he didn't reveal until the end was who the story was about.

"It talked about how teams are no longer afraid of us," Rivers said. "That we lacked urgency and even the players were saying that, and then I told them it was the L.A. Times. It was Lamar Odom, it was Phil Jackson, it was Kobe Bryant, it was Pau Gasol talking.

"I said, 'You got to earn for people to be afraid of you.' The first half of the year, we did earn that. I think everybody conveniently forgets, when we were 25-5, we were completely healthy. We had injuries, then we struggled and now we're trying to get it back. It didn't just go away because the healthy group stopped playing. It went away for a good reason. What we failed to do was be able to put it back together."

Double-digit win streaks this season


Streak: 13

Win to start: 107-97, Phoenix, Feb. 17

Loss to end: 128-94, New York, March 13

When it was over: "I didn't sense overconfidence or being full of ourselves, but over a 24-day period when you don't lose a game, you're going to have teams gunning for you and you're going to have teams showing up that are going to get hot. If you don't have answers, it's going to be ugly." -- Rick Carlisle.

Longest winning streaks this season
Team Streak Start End
Dallas 13 Feb. 17 March 10
Cleveland 13 Jan. 16 Feb. 11
Boston 11 Nov. 22 Dec. 14
Lakers 11 Nov. 17 Dec. 11
OKC 9 Jan. 29 Feb. 21
Utah 9 Jan. 20 Feb. 9
Orlando 8 Feb. 28 March 13
Denver 8 Jan. 11 Jan. 27

Significance: Mavs climbed from fourth to a tie with Denver for second in the Western Conference and are within striking distance of the Lakers. The streak served as a resounding endorsement of the trade for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. Those two new starters have transitioned almost flawlessly into Carlisle's system, serving as the ideal complements to Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.


Streak: 13

Win to start: 102-101, L.A. Clippers, Jan. 16

Loss to end: 106-108 (OT), Denver, Feb. 18

When it was over: "You want to go against the best on the biggest stage. We both did what we had to do to put our teams in position to win; he just made one more play." -- LeBron James on Carmelo Anthony nailing the winning basket in overtime.

Significance: The Cavaliers were leading the Eastern Conference when the streak began, but only by 1.5 games over Boston. Plus, the Lakers had the best record in the league at the time. When it came to an end, Cleveland had a healthy six-game lead over Orlando and had rocketed past the champs. LeBron and friends continue to set the pace, becoming the first (and only) team in the league to reach 50 wins. They've added to their arsenal with Antawn Jamison and are a week away from a Zydrunas Ilgauskas reunion.


Streak: 11

Win to start: 106-93, Detroit, Nov. 17

Loss to end: 102-94, Utah, Dec. 12

When it was over: "We just didn't come out and play with any consistency. It was just one of those nights. I don't see this type of game happening from us again." -- Ron Artest.

Significance: The streak happened early, pushing the Lakers out to an 18-3 start and establishing their place once again atop the league's pecking order. Phil Jackson's squad took care of business at Staples, building up the cushion that's eroded some in recent weeks. But without that sprint from the gate, the Lakers might be looking up at one or two teams in the West.


Streak: 11

Win to start: 107-105, New York, Nov. 22

Loss to end: 98-97, Philadelphia, Dec. 18

When it was over: "They played all game like they were going to win the game. It's one thing to have the winning swagger where you go out and play. It's another thing when you show up and think the other team is going to fall over because you're the Celtics." -- Doc Rivers.

Significance: Gave the Celts the best record in the Eastern Conference (20-4) and a 10-game lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division. That divisional advantage has essentially stayed intact for the last three months. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were all healthy then. Rajon Rondo was at the top of his game and Rasheed Wallace was contributing off the bench. Boston looked like a team then that could win it all.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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