The last 20 games of the NBA season: Which team is the best over the past three years?
The NBA’s best team (record-wise), the Milwaukee Bucks, was 53-9 on Friday, March 6 before they played the Los Angeles Lakers. They were starting their last 20-game stretch in this season.
A loss to the Lakers that night and another loss to the Phoenix Suns two days later meant the Bucks had started the final 20-game stretch with a 0-2 season.
Fortunately, the Bucks have already secured a playoff spot for this season. For other teams, however, the final 20-game stretch is where they will make a push for not only a spot in the playoffs, but a high seed to gain home court advantage.
Over the past previous three NBA seasons (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19), there were three teams that won 70% or higher of their last 20 games in each of those three seasons… 60 games in total over three campaigns.
Topping the list were the Houston Rockets who went 44-16 (.733) in the last 20 games of the season in the last three years. Two fellow Western Conference teams followed the Rockets: Utah at 43-17 (.717) and Portland at 42-18 (.700).
Here’s a look at how many games each NBA team won in the past three seasons in the last 20 games of the campaign… 60 games total.
40: Golden State
38: San Antonio
36: Denver, L.A. Clippers, Miami, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City
28: New Orleans
27: Brooklyn, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit
21: Chicago, L.A. Lakers
15: New York
Only one team, the 1996-97 Utah Jazz, won 19 of their last 20 games of a season. Seven teams won 18 of their last 20, the most recent of those teams being the 2017-18 Philadelphia 76ers. Last season the Rockets won 16 of their last 20 games, the most of any team in the NBA. Portland and San Antonio were next with 15 wins in their last 20 games last season.
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The last time the Bucks had beaten the Suns in Phoenix was March 9, 1987 when they won 118-110. For the record, of the 12 players who played for the Bucks in their win last night, five of them had not even been born yet when the Bucks last won in Phoenix: Ersen Ilyasova, Larry Sanders, Brandon Jennings, Ekpe Udoh and John Henson.
Now that the Bucks have a win over the Suns in the scorebook, the longest drought when it comes to road victories is now in Utah. The Bucks have not won a game at Utah since October 30, 2001. Here’s a look at where road wins have been rare for the Bucks.
2. New Orleans, last road win was Jan. 27, 2003. The Bucks have lost 11 straight road games to the Hornets.
3. Orlando, last road win was Dec. 29, 2004. The Bucks have lost 13 straight road games to the Magic.
4. Los Angeles Clippers, last road win was Dec. 4, 2007. The Bucks have lost four straight road games to the Clippers.
5. San Antonio, last road win was Dec. 30, 2008. The Bucks have lost three straight road games to the Spurs.
6. Minnesota, last road win was Nov. 6, 2009. The Bucks have lost two straight road games to the Timberwolves.
7. Memphis, last road win was Nov. 21, 2009. The Bucks have lost two straight road games to the Grizzlies.
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The Miami Heat went into the All-Star break with an eight-game winning streak. That streak, however, was also colored with eight victories that were each won by 10 points or more. The eight straight wins by 10 points or more by the Heat made them the 14th team in NBA history to accomplish this feat.
So the question becomes, can LeBron, Dwyane and the Miami gang break the record for most consecutive wins by 10 points or more… 10 straight games? To do it, they will have to win three straight games by double-figures on the road. After the break they face Portland on March 1, travel the next night to take on the Utah Jazz, and, if they win both of those games by 10 points or more, go for the record against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Following are the teams which have won the most consecutive games by 10 points or more. In addition, I’ve also listed those teams which have won the most consecutive games by 15 or more points, 20 or more points, and 25 or more points.
Consecutive wins by 10+ points, Teams, Year
10: Washington, 1946… New Jersey, 2004… Houston, 2008.
9: Boston, 2007… Cleveland, 2008… Miami, 2010
Consecutive wins by 15+ points, Teams, Year
8: Detroit, 2004
6: Cleveland, 1989…. Phoenix, 1990
Consecutive wins by 20+ points, Teams, Year
5: Milwaukee, 1970… Portland, 1978
Consecutive wins by 25+ points, Teams, Year
4: Houston, 1993