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NBA Analysis: Most Impressive Stretches of Year So Far

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We know which teams have earned the best records so far, but how have they looked at their sustained peaks? This is definitely something we need to consider when thinking about each contenders' chances at winning it all in this mixed-up season. Here's a look at the top contenders' best 3-game stretches to date, plus some other relevant information (Strength of Opponents refers to the entire season, Overal Impression refers to the 3-game stretch).

Chicago Bulls

Record: 22-6
Home/Road: 9-1, 13-5
Strength of Opponents: Very Weak
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Dec 30, @LA Clippers, W 114-101
  • Jan 01, Mem Grizzlies, W 104-64
  • Jan 03, Atlanta Hawks, W 76-74

Overall Impression: The big one here is actually the Hawks game, since the Bulls were behind 42-56 going into the 4th and outscored them 34-18 to win it. This stretch was very early in the season (plus the Clippers were playing without Billups), and since then their best stretch was 3 recent blowouts over the Bucks, Nets, and Hornets. Considering how long ago the first stretch was and how unimpressive their opponents were in their most recent one, I’m calling this stretch nothing special.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 20-6
Home/Road: 9-1, 11-5
Strength of Opponents: Average
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 7, @Houston Rockets, W 98-95
  • Jan 8, San Antonio Spurs, W 108-96
  • Jan 10, @Mem Grizzlies, W 100-95

Overall Impression: Durant came up with a jumper and some free throws late to pull out the back-and-forth affair with Houston. Their W over SA made the Thunder the first team to win a back-to-back-to-back this season, but the Spurs bench played considerably more minutes than the starters, and that included with Ginobili already out. Z-Bo didn’t play for the Grizzlies. This stretch has the nicety of the SA win to end a 3-games-in-3-days grinder, but there are enough other elements in play here (including the fact they have no decent streaks worth talking about since early-January) to say it’s merely decent at best.

Miami Heat

Record: 19-7
Home/Road: 12-2, 7-5
Strength of Opponents: Below-Average
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 17, San Antonio Spurs, W 120-98
  • Jan 19, Los Angeles Lakers, W 98-87
  • Jan 21, Philadelphia 76ers, W 113-92

Overall Impression: Obviously this is a very strong string of victories, but keep in mind that the Spurs were without Ginobili and the Sixers were without their centers (Vucevic got hurt in the game after starting for Hawes). Other than that, the Heat impressively took over in the 3rd against SanAn to force Popovich to sit his starters, and they were up 77-56 over the Lakers to start the 4th, so that score is deceivingly close.

Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 18-8
Home/Road: 13-4, 5-4
Strength of Opponents: Weak to Very Weak
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 30, Orlando Magic, W 74-69
  • Feb 1, Chicago Bulls, W 98-82
  • Feb 3, Maimi Heat, L 79-99

Overall Impression: A few things need to be pointed out about this stretch. 1) They lead the Magic by 16 after 3, so it was actually a big win. 2) The Bulls were without Deng. 3) Philly’s two good centers were both out for the Heat game, but they still were within 4 early in the final period. Considering they blew out two of the top teams in the East and hung with the other without a real center, I’d call this stretch impressive.

San Antonio Spurs

Record: 18-9
Home/Road: 13-1, 5-8
Strength of Opponents: Very Strong
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Feb 4, OKC Thunder, W 107-96
  • Feb 6, @Mem Grizzlies, W 89-84
  • Feb 8, @Philly 76ers, W 100-90

Overall Impression: It goes without saying that this streak was played without Ginobili. The Thunder game was actually a huge blowout; SA was up 88-70 after 3 quarters. The Spurs then came back from a 67-73 hole at the end the 3rd in Memphis to pretty much own the entire final period. Philly was playing without their two centers of note. Considering the Spurs have had a very ho-hum approach to this season without Ginobili and are still firmly in 2nd place in the West, it takes a very impressive stretch like this where they dominate the West’s “top” team and the East’s #2 or #3 club to really show you how good they can be.  

Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 15-8
Home/Road: 10-3, 5-5
Strength of Opponents: Strong to Very Strong
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 29, @Denv Nuggets, W 109-105
  • Jan 30, OKCity Thunder, W 112-100
  • Feb 1, @Utah Jazz, W 107-105

Overall Impression: The Clippers had to pull out tight victories in both Denver and Utah during this stretch, plus they obliterated the Thunder in between (entered the 4th up 90-70). LA certainly made a case that they would still be winning their division even if they were in the much tougher Northwest with this rather impressive streak.

Orlando Magic

Record: 16-10
Home/Road: 9-5, 7-5
Strength of Opponents: Weak
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Feb 4, @Ind Pacers, W 85-81
  • Feb 6, LA Clippers, L 107-102 (OT)
  • Feb 8, Miami Heat, @ 102-89

Overall Impression: Handing the Heat a loss at home is obviously good. And the Magic had to come back from down 9 in the 4th to force overtime with the Clippers. Overall, the stretch is pretty good, but an overtime spanking at home hurts.

Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 15-11
Home/Road: 11-2, 4-9
Strength of Opponents: Strong
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 8, Mem Grizzlies, W 90-82
  • Jan 10, Phoenix Suns, W 99-83
  • Jan 11, @Utah Jazz, W 90-87 (OT)

Overall Impression: The stretch is a little old, but LA is only 7-7 since then so it’s the best we have to look at. The Lakers had to fight in the 4th to win each of these games (at least early in the 4th), and it should be mentioned that Z-Bo didn’t play on the 8th and that Kobe’s string of 40+ points games started against Phoenix. Considering these three teams are a combined 2 games under .500 and the stretch isn’t very recent, it’s fair to say it’s a bit underwhelming.

Dallas Mavericks

Record: 15-11
Home/Road: 9-5, 6-6
Strength of Opponents: Above-Average
Best 3-Game Stretch:

  • Jan 27, Utah Jazz, W 116-101
  • Jan 29, SA Spurs, W 101-100 (OT)
  • Jan 30, @Phoenix, W 122-99

Overall Impression: Two of these wins come with big asterisks on them: The Spurs went with their reserves for most of the 3rd and the entirety of the 4th and overtime, and it still took an amazing endgame by Jason Terry to pull this one out. Also, Phoenix was playing without Steve Nash, which has been historically disastrous for them. Against Utah, Dallas had to make things work without Dirk or Kidd, so that's impressive. The Mavs started the year 1-4, so even though this stretch is only OK to decent-ish, fans should just be happy they’re 15-11 and in the hunt at this point.


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