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With Heat rolling, Lakers recall their record run
“Certainly we had a lot of confidence and that confidence grew among us that somehow, some way, we were going to find a way to win, and I think all great teams do that. We really didn’t think about the streak, at least I didn’t. I mean, we knew it wasn’t going to last forever, I mean that just doesn’t happen, but we were dominating.”
Chamberlain was more defender and rebounder at that late stage of his career, but West (25.8 points per game that season) and Goodrich (25.9) provided plenty of points. Defense wins championships, the cliche goes, but a potent offense can keep a winning streak going, and the Lakers knew they had it.
“We were capable of having runs, streaks, running off 12 or 15 points in a game,” Goodrich said. “Pretty much we were confident we were going to do that, but I think the confidence builds that you’re better than your opponent. That doesn’t mean you disrespect them, but you are better.”
The Heat have had it tougher. They trailed by 16 before rallying for a six-point victory over a Knicks team that had beaten them badly twice earlier in the season. They went two overtimes with Sacramento and needed a layup by James with 3.2 seconds left to beat Orlando. His jumper with 10.5 seconds remaining allowed them to escape Boston with the streak intact.
The toughest obstacle for the Heat _ already one of the most scrutinized teams in sports from the moment James and Bosh joined Wade in 2010 _ may be the attention they’ll face. The streak has made the reigning champs larger than life, even drawing attention away from college basketball’s postseason during what’s usually a quiet time in the NBA schedule.
The Lakers, even with Chamberlain’s outsized personality, didn’t face nearly the level of media interest. The then-record of 20 in a row had been set by Milwaukee less than a year earlier, the Knicks had won 18 in a row a couple of years before that, and there just wasn’t the fascination with a feat that didn’t seem as extraordinary at the time.
West, a consultant now with the Warriors, was watching a national news program recently and saw a segment about the Heat’s streak. But asked how much the Lakers heard or thought about theirs, he said: “Honestly, not much.”
“I think athletes have the ability to focus in on what’s ahead of them,” he said. “Today it’s much different than it was before because you have so much more media around today. And then toward the end there when we really got in the 20s, there wasn’t a lot of interests.”
The streak finally ended on Jan. 9, 1972. The offense that had been humming for so long managed only 17 points in the second quarter, and the defending champion Bucks beat them 120-104 behind 39 points from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
That started a stretch of four losses in six games before the Lakers regrouped and won eight in a row en route to a 69-13 record and their first championship in Los Angeles. They’d had great individual talent for years, but knew that season they had something more.
“We had veteran guys on our team. Veteran players like that, you don’t have to come in the locker room and say a word,” West said. “It was, `Let’s see who we’re playing tonight. Don’t change anything you’re doing and go play.’”
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Oakland, Calif. contributed to this report.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney
By Joy Overbeck
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