Column: The Streak Is Over

Column: The Streak Is Over

I was at Michigan Stadium in October 2005 when the University of Minnesota football team ended a streak of epic proportions. The Gophers went into The Big House, and for the first time in 19 years they left a meeting with the Wolverines with The Little Brown Jug traveling trophy. After 16 straight losses dating back to 1986, Minnesota ended “The Streak.”

That trip will always be special to me for a few reasons: Six of us college sophomores made the road trip in a two-door Chevy Cavalier 12 hours to Ann Arbor, and when we got there we really had no intentions of seeing a Gophers win. We just wanted to watch the game and have a good time. So when Gary Russell darted 61 yards with time winding down in the fourth to set up a 30-yard Jason Giannini field goal—and a 23-20 victory—we couldn’t believe our eyes.

But with all due respect to my Gophers—and that game, and those circumstances—Sunday night’s 113-90 win over the Lakers was a little sweeter.

The Wolves ended their 22-game winning streak to L.A. at Staples Center, and they did it in such convincing fashion and with so many statistics swirling around you couldn’t help but take a moment to catch your breath. The 47-point first quarter, the lights-out shooting by Kevin Love and Kevin Martin early on, the transition baskets, the Ricky Rubio triple-double, the 29-point second half lead, the…

Like I said, too many to wrap your head around.

They did it in front of a (per usual) star-studded crowd in L.A., which featured everyone from Jack Nicholson to Jake Gyllenhaal to Leann Rimes to Fred Couples. And even though the Lakers made a couple runs in the second and third quarters, this one was pretty much wire-to-wire in the Wolves’ favor.

Now I know the Lakers are going through injury struggles and their depth is not what you’re used to seeing from this particular franchise, but in this league there are losing streaks and then there are losing streaks, and when you squad a 22-game skid with that type of performance, it’s cause for celebration.

This was the last major losing streak the Wolves had—coach Rick Adelman and his coaching staff started ending them when they took over in 2011. I came on board at the same time and have seen them end skids to the likes of the Thunder, Celtics, Rockets, Spurs, Suns and Magic. Needless to say, the Lakers is the most memorable of the group.

The Wolves did their part to downplay the significance, and that’s important because at the end of the day teams need to take the one-day-at-a-time approach. Adelman said pregame he had no idea the streak existed. Postgame, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic both said there wasn’t much talk about it, but you could tell the players knew.

“There wasn’t much discussion about it, but we knew that the guys that had played here, we talked about it that we hadn’t had much success,” Love said. “But we weren’t thinking about it numbers-wise. We just wanted to come out and think about this year that we needed a win.”

Ricky Rubio was the most vocal about the streak. He said pregame that 22 games was a lot, and it was time for it to end. Postgame, he backed that up.

“When you know how hard it is to win against the Lakers—we lost 22 or something like that—we knew it was a good game for us to win,” Rubio said.

On the court, the Wolves as a whole backed it up from start to finish. They crashed the boards, they pushed tempo with their transition game, they scored from 3, they pounded it inside, they racked up assists, they nabbed 14 steals. They played a complete game in a building that has 16 championship banners hanging its baseline wall.

And they walked out of Staples Center about 9:30 p.m. PT last night with the franchise’s first win against the Lakers since March 6, 2007—and their first win in L.A. since Dec. 2, 2005.

Maybe it’s because it’s fresh and the memory hasn’t partially faded over eight years. Maybe it’s the way it went down on Sunday. Whatever the case, this Lakers win just leapfrogged my list of streak-breaking games I’ve witnessed. I know a lot of you in Minnesota and all around the world who stayed up to watch it are probably thinking the same thing.

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