L.A.’s greatest sports moments No. 14: Lakers win 33 in a row
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We asked you to send in your picks for the greatest sports moments in L.A. history, and 1,181 ballots later we are unveiling the top 20 vote-getters. Each weekday we will unveil a new moment until we reach No. 1.
No. 14: Lakers win 33 in a row (18 first-place votes, 2,803 points)
Imagine going an entire month without losing an NBA game.
Imagine going two months without losing a game.
In the 1971-72 season, the Lakers did the unimaginable, winning 33 consecutive games over an eight-week stretch. It stands as the longest streak in league history.
On the final day of October, the Lakers lost to Golden State to fall to 6-3. Legendary forward Elgin Baylor, beset by numerous injuries, retired four days later.
Lakers Coach Bill Sharman responded by inserting second-year player Jim McMillian into the starting lineup, alongside Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Wilt Chamberlain and Happy Hairston.
On Nov. 5, the Lakers started the run to history with a 110-106 victory over the Baltimore Bullets at the Forum. They won 13 more games in November, then won their first six games of December. A 104-95 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 12 at the Forum extended the streak to 21 games, breaking the league mark of 20 set by the Milwaukee Bucks the previous season.
Nine more victories in December ran the streak to 30. Win No. 33 came in Atlanta on Jan. 7, a 134-90 rout of the Hawks.
Two days later, it was over, as the defending champion Bucks hammered the Lakers, 120-104, on a Sunday afternoon before a delirious crowd in Milwaukee and a national television audience.
The Lakers beat the Bucks early in the streak and beat every other team in the league at least once except the Cincinnati Royals, who finished the season at 30-52. The average margin of victory during the streak was 17 points.
The Lakers set another record by going 69-13 that season. They capped the year with their first title in Los Angeles.
No team has seriously challenged the streak in the ensuing 39 seasons. The closest any team has come was the 2007-08 Houston Rockets, who won 22 in a row.
-- Hans Tesselaar