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We're Streaking! (But Does It Matter?)

By Sarah Barton


I think my heart rate is still at about 150 beats per minute after Boston's last second win over the Sixers on Tuesday. Had the Celts not pulled that one out, I was ready to put an asterisk after the final score, thus keeping the win streak alive. *KG did not play; flu. But Ray Allen alleviated the loss and the need for a KG excuse, and Boston bumped its winning streak up to 12 games.

If you were a Celtics fan two years ago (bless your soul), you would associate the word "streak" with "losing." Two years ago to this very day, Boston was in the midst of an 18-game losing streak. Fast forward to now. They have already won 19 straight this season, and after a few bumps in the road, they've reeled off another 12-game streak.

In NBA history, only two teams have won at least 16 straight games twice in one season. 

The first team to do so was the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks, led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. Those Bucks won 16 in a row, then followed up a few months later with a 20-game streak. The team finished 66-16 and lost only two playoff games en route to an NBA Finals sweep over the Baltimore Bullets.

More recently, the Lakers had winning streaks of 16 and 19 games in the 1999-2000 season. With Kobe and Shaq leading the way (plus a supporting cast of Glen Rice, Ron Harper, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, and Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry), the Lakers ended up 67-15 and won the NBA Finals.

Most recently, the 2008-09 Celtics are on pace to join those two teams in the esteemed Multiple Sweet 16 Streak Club. (Knock on wood, rub your rabbit's foot, or do whatever it is that you do.)

History suggests that multiple single-season 16-game winning streaks lead to NBA Championships. Two teams have done it, both teams won rings. In Old School, Frank the Tank aptly demonstrates streaking gone wrong, but in the NBA, streaking (when clothed and winning) is a prerequisite to eternal glory.  If Boston wins its next four games, I will strongly consider not merely penciling, but Sharpie-ing the Boston Celtics into the record books (or maybe just my personal journal) as 2009 NBA Champs. But I don't have the Sharpie out quite yet.

For the Celtics to extend their current streak to 16, they'll first have to handle the Laker squad (sans Bynum) that snapped their 19-game win streak on Christmas day. Then they'll have to knock the Knicks at Madison Square, host the surging Spurs (who have won 13 of their last 17), and take care of New Orleans in the first of six straight road games.

Needless to say, those are some tall orders. And, after missing two games with the flu, KG might not immediately be at 100%. But anything is possible. Other obstacles will include Kobe, who just dropped 61 on the Knicks (hopefully he got that out of his system); the Knicks, who already beat Boston at Madison Square (but are coming off tough losses to the Kobes and LeBrons...I mean, Lakers and Cavs); the Spurs' Big Three (wait, there's another Big Three?); and Chris Paul (if he's healthy).

The Celtics have a tough stretch ahead, so let's play devil's advocate. Let's just say that Boston doesn't win each of its next four. Never fear, history is still on the Celtics' side. Three other Celtics teams have won at least 16 straight games, and each of them went on to win the NBA Finals. I like the odds.

Why am I writing about this now, instead of next week when it may be more imminent? I figure that if we all know what's at stake, Boston fans will expend a little extra positive energy toward their heroes in green. It can't hurt. Besides, as far as history is concerned, the Celtics have already put themselves in elite company, regardless of what happens during the rest of the season. (See previous paragraph.)

Maybe streaks are overrated, and perhaps history is too. Streaks end, and history doesn't always repeat itself. But without all the history and hype, every Celtics game would be, well, just another game. In a storied NBA franchise like the Boston Celtics, each game means something. Comparisons to past teams and players can (and will) always be made. So while the next four games are not the be-all end-all of the Celtics' season, the intrigue of potentially witnessing history makes us want to believe that anything is possible. And honestly, who doesn't love streaking?


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