When the Golden State Warriors hit 16-0 last month, they were officially off to the best start in N.B.A. history. After Tuesday night’s 131-123 victory over the Indiana Pacers, they stand at 23-0, and even greater milestones are in sight.
A small, speedy lineup that few teams can stop, good defense, a record pace of 3-point shooting and, of course, Stephen Curry, have made the Warriors as impressive a team as any since the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96. Indeed, a statistical model developed by 538.com projects that the Warriors will match that team’s 72-10 record.
Sometimes it doesn’t appear that the Warriors will lose even 10 games. It may be time to start thinking about the granddaddy of all streaks, the 33-game run by the 1971-72 Lakers.
The Warriors’ current string of 27 straight wins (23 this season and four at the end of last season) is tied for second on the N.B.A. list with the Heat, who won 27 straight in LeBron James’s second season with the team.
When their streak began in February 2013, the Heat were 29-14, the best record in the East but only the fourth best in the league. After losing the finals to the Mavericks in James’s debut year there, they seemed like just another good team, rather than worldbeaters.
They did not lose again until the end of March, finishing the season on a 37-2 run, with the triumvirate of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ripping through the league. The streak finally ended in Chicago, but the Heat finished a league best 66-16 and went on to win James’s first title.
The Warriors can surpass the Heat with a win in Boston on Friday night. Then the formidable 33-game streak by the Lakers will loom on the horizon. After a 6-3 start, the Lakers began winning in early November 1971 and did not lose until the new year. Sporting a lineup that included the Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich (and another, Elgin Baylor, at the tail end of his career), the Lakers swept to the longest winning streak in major North American team sports.
They finally lost to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the Milwaukee Bucks, but they wound up 69-13 and cruised through the playoffs with only three losses for their first title since moving to Los Angeles in 1960.
The Warriors would match that streak with a 33rd straight win of their own in a most dramatic spot: at home on Christmas Day against James and the Cavaliers. They could break it three days later against the Kings.
If you decline to count the Warriors’ four wins at the end of last season, the tying and breaking dates would be Jan. 2 and 4.
Though no pro team matches the Lakers’ streak, every league has its own impressive run.
The Indianapolis Colts won the last nine regular-season games of 2008, then reeled off 14 straight to start 2009 to set the N.F.L. record of 23. Perhaps the streak is not more celebrated because the team failed to win the Super Bowl in either year.
The Chicago Cubs’ record streak of 21 wins came at a crucial time in September 1935, and took them from third place to the pennant. The American League record of 20 was set by the A’s in 2002 and was immortalized in the film “Moneyball,” when Scott Hatteberg, as played by Chris Pratt, hit a game-ending home run.
In 1992-93, the Pittsburgh Penguins set an N.H.L. record with 17 straight wins, sparked by the return of Mario Lemieux from radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s disease. The Major League Soccer record is 15 straight wins by the Los Angeles Galaxy, spanning the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
In top-level college sports, the streaks are even longer. Perhaps the most famous is Oklahoma’s 47 straight football wins, running from the third game of the 1953 season until November 1957.
In 2010, the Connecticut women’s basketball team stretched its record streak to 90 games, surpassing the venerable 88-game run of the U.C.L.A. men from 1971 to 1974.
But as impressive as those team streaks are, individual winning streaks can be even longer. Edwin Moses did not lose a 400-meter hurdles race in a decade, running off 122 in a row before finally losing in 1987.
But Moses’s string pales next to that of the Pakistani squash star of the 1980s, Jahangir Khan, who won 555 straight matches. The Warriors could break that streak, too, as long as they avoid losing before 2022.
Correction: December 9, 2015
An earlier version of this article misidentified the team that beat the Heat in the Finals in LeBron James’s first year in Miami. It was the Mavericks, not the Thunder.