Originally created 03/19/00

Streaking Lakers look to start another one



LOS ANGELES -- One streak down, another on the way for the Los Angeles Lakers.

So they say, anyway. And judging by what's already happened this season -- Phil Jackson's first as the coach -- it's a good possibility.

The Lakers previously had winning streaks of seven and 16, but the one that reached 19 was the most impressive. They won by an average of 13.9 points during a difficult stretch in their schedule and have now had so many streaks that they would be on a pace to qualify for the playoffs with those wins alone.

But in what was supposed to be one of the easier games on a tough road trip, the Lakers lost to the lowly Washington Wizards 109-102 on Thursday night, ending the NBA's third longest streak ever.

"It was a fun ride, we're part of history," Shaquille O'Neal said. "Now we just have to start all over and get back on track."

That's just what Los Angeles did Friday night in Detroit, beating the Pistons 110-82. The Lakers will try to make it two in a row on Sunday, when they play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden before playing Miami on Monday.

The loss against Washington was the first for the Lakers since Feb. 1. Ten of their wins came on the road, the other nine at home.

Not always generous with praise, Jackson had said his team was playing at a very high level. However, he also made it clear he didn't expect the streak to survive the trip, saying he hoped for a split of the games against the Knicks and Heat, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

After the 19-game streak ended, Jackson revealed a goal he'd been keeping in house all season.

"I told this team if we could win 60 games, I would consider it a major goal," he said. "It still is my goal with this team to get to that level. I never expected to be at a level where we'd win more than 60."

That shouldn't be a problem. The Lakers were an NBA-best 54-12 with 16 games to go. (They would be 42-24 just counting the wins during the streaks).

"It was a good run for us," Jackson said of winning 19 in a row. "As I told the players, you have to have a lot of luck to keep these things going, especially on the road."

Los Angeles fell far short of the longest winning streak in NBA history, 33 won by the 1971-72 Lakers.

The Milwaukee Bucks won 20 in a row during the 1970-71 season, and the Washington Capitols also had a 20-game run that began in 1948 and ended the next season.

Jerry West, the Lakers' executive vice president of basketball operations and one of the stars of the 1971-72 team, refused to make comparisons.

"The team I played on, we won the championship," he said. "Just because you win a lot of games doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win the championship.

"Our focus has been getting through the season, seeing how we do after that. I have no idea how good this team can be, we're not going to be judged with what we're doing right now."

Jackson coached Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to six championships in an eight-year span ending in 1998, but that team never won more than 18 straight, accomplished by the 1995-96 team that won a record 72 games.

Jordan was only too happy the Wizards snapped the Lakers' streak since he's now president of that team.

Kobe Bryant, who played the best basketball of his four-year career during the streak, had an off-night against the Wizards, scoring only seven points.

Just last Sunday night, Bryant and O'Neal combined for 79 points in a 109-106 victory over Sacramento, extending the winning streak to 18 games. The 19th came one night later, a 118-108 victory in Denver.

O'Neal averaged 30.3 points during the streak, while Bryant averaged 22.7. The two superstars, who have clashed in the past, are coexisting very well these days.

"In looking from the start of training camp to where we are today, you have to be extremely pleased," West said. "We have played beautifully, all of us are proud.

"I have been extremely impressed with Phil's ability to get our players to believe in what he wants accomplished. I think the most important thing, he seems to have a wonderful way with them, they buy into what he believes in."

And as a team, the Lakers believe they're about to start another streak.