Thinking About Streaks, Statement Games, & The Journey

Darius Soriano —  January 20, 2011

This may seem random, but I love visiting Basketball-Reference.  I go there multiple times a day just to search through their vast database of stats, games, teams, and players looking for nuggets of information that better help me understand the game. (I also use their stats for our game previews for info on offensive and defensive efficiency, pace, and other useful info to help look at that day’s match up.)

Today, when visiting the site, I found an interesting stat that I wanted to share. Did you know that since the 2007-08 season (the one in which the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol) that the Lakers’ longest winning streak (in a single season) has only been 11 games? They’ve reached that mark a single time. Their second longest streak has been 10 games (twice) and besides that their longest streak has been all of 8 games.  This year, the Lakers longest streak has been 7 games, you’ll surely remember it since it just ended against the Clippers this past Sunday. (On a side note, there have been 12 streaks longer than the Lakers’ 11 game tear during this same time frame. They’ve been accomplished by 8 different teams with multiple streaks by the Celtics, Cavs, and Mavs in that time.)

I bring this all up because I think we can all agree that one of the more frustrating aspects of following the Lakers this season has been the lack of ability to build momentum. Early in the year, the Lakers seemed to have everything going well but soon after starting out so hot the team fell into a roller coaster of a season where a handful of wins was followed by a few losses. And on like that we’ve gone. The team takes a couple of steps forward, a couple backward and we all sit back and talk about what’s wrong with the team and wonder if any of the recurring issues we see will be the fatal flaw that ends the team’s reign over the league. 

I think most fans would agree that all they want is consistent play and the chance to win each game; for the team to play hard and smart and to their potential. If that happens, most think, the wins will follow and ultimately we’re all happy.

But if pressed harder, I think what fans really want is another championship and for this team to play its best basketball in May and June. For a parade at the end of the year and for Kobe and Fisher to hold up 6 fingers as they grasp on to another trophy.  And therein lies the rub because what fans really want (a win each night AND a championship at the end of the year) don’t always mean that the team is going to play the way we want on any given night.

In the comments, there was a brief debate about statement games. I think if – taking from my earlier example – fans can’t get a win each night, they at least want wins against the best teams. A team like the Spurs (2 weeks ago) or the Mavs (last night). Commenter Joe summed up this side of the argument well when he said:

(Dallas) is a game that has more meaning than against a non playoff contending team. If I were the Lakers, I wouldn’t want to let these good teams to keep on beating us and give them more confidence against us going into the playoffs. I mean if the Lakers believe they are still far and away the best team and can just flip the switch like they did last year come playoff time, they will lose, they need to let go of the arrogance.

However, to counter that another commenter (Dirty Sanchez) stated that:

A statement game during the regular season for a two time defending champion is an oxymoron. LA knows what type of effort it takes to win in the playoffs. You cant judge whats happening now will be what the future holds. Don’t get me wrong the team is frustrating to watch, but at the same time things can change at anytime.

And this is what it’s like to follow this team. Frustration. Confidence. This is the roller coaster we all ride on the journey towards the end of the season. I wish I knew which side was right but I don’t. None of us do and we won’t until the end of the line. Such is this Lakers’ season. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we’re all wondering what’s wrong while also feeling perfectly confident that it will all be better in the next game.

Darius Soriano

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