By Michael C. Jones
The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors defeated the Detroit Pistons Monday night 109-95 to improve to 8-0 on the season. That’s an impressive start, made more so by the fact that the Warriors have done it without head coach Steve Kerr, sidelined by problems with his back. As good as 8 wins against 0 losses is, is it a record? No. Could they break it? Yes.
It’s been 22 seasons since the record for the best opening winning streak in NBA history was even equaled, let alone beaten. The 1993 Houston Rockets started their season with 15 wins, tying the 1948 Washington Capitols for the hottest start. Perhaps even more amazingly, those Rockets, led by eventual MVP Hakeem Olajuwon, would lose to Atlanta in game 16, then rack up another seven straight wins. They would go on to become 1993-94 NBA champions.
The mark for longest opening winning streak in the history of Major League Baseball also is a tie, between the 1982 Atlanta Braves and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, 13 games. Unlike the Rockets, after the Braves’ streak ended, they had a spring swoon and lost five in a row. Joe Torre would manage the Braves to the 1982 NLCS, losing in a sweep to the Cardinals.
Paul Molitor’s Milwaukee Brewers equaled the start streak in 1987, a run highlighted by Juan Nieves’ no-hitter against the Orioles, a 7-0 win on April 15, still the only no-hitter in Brewers’ history. But despite Molitor’s remarkable 39-game hitting streak that season, the Brewers would finish third in the AL East.
The shortest mark on this list belongs to the NHL, and two teams who began the season by winning 10 games. The 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs, with top goal scorer Dave Andreychuk and points leader Doug Gilmour, started the season with 10 wins and would eventually advance to the Western Conference Finals, losing in five games to the Vancouver Canucks.
The 10 wins to the open the season by the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres would lead to a Presidents’ Trophy for best regular-season record. They didn’t lost until one month into the season, to Toronto, starting the season 10-1-2. The Sabres won their first 10 road games, an NHL record, but they would eventually lose to Ottawa in the conference finals.
I thought before researching this list that the shortest season-opening winning streak would belong to the MLS, but the Los Angeles Galaxy, led by U.S. star Cobi Jones (no relation) began the 1996 season with 12 consecutive wins. They also hold the MLS record for longest winning streak to end a regular season, six. The Galaxy would lose the championship match 3-2 in overtime to D.C. United, which became the first MLS champion.
This one’s easy. The 2007 New England Patriots became the first team to go 16-0 in the regular season, though their hopes of a perfect season were dashed by Eli Manning, David Tyree (his game-saving reception was the last of his career) and the New York Giants. The Patriots finished 18-1.
Of course, Don Shula’s 1972 Miami Dolphins finished the regular season 14-0, then won three postseason games, including Super Bowl VII against Washington, to finish 17-0, which must be considered the best single-season team record among the five major North American sports.
So can the Warriors tie or beat the NBA record? They next play at Memphis, a team they beat by 50 (50!) when they met at Oracle Arena. Next up will be a trip to Minnesota, which is 4-2, but both their losses were at home. If the Warriors hope to beat the record, they must do so against teams with a combined winning percentage of 44.8. Golden State is 100 percent, so I wouldn’t bet against them. What do you think? Leave me your comments below.