The Whiteboard: Checking in on the NBA’s longest active streaks

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images
Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images /

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With Monday night’s 115-111 win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Phoenix Suns pushed their win streak to 13 games. That’s the longest win streak we’ve seen this season, the longest we’ve seen since the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the 2019-20 season and tied for the 15th-longest of the last decade. The hottest team in the NBA is entering a particularly tough stretch of the schedule, which begs the question…

How far can the Phoenix Suns stretch their win streak?

The Suns’ next three games are all on the road — against the Cavaliers, Knicks and Nets. From there, they get a home-and-home series with the Golden State Warriors, with a home game against the Detroit Pistons sandwiched in-between. The Suns are favored against the Cavs and Knicks and 538’s prediction model gives them a 14.9 percent chance of finishing their road trip with three straight wins. That would bring their win streak to 16 games and tie them for the eighth-longest win streak of the past decade.

A win against the Pistons looks like a safe bet on paper, but the games against the Warriors are a bit dicier. Both games should be fantastic and could hold huge implications for the Western Conference playoff picture — the Warriors and Suns are currently No. 1 and No. 2, separated by just a game.

Per 538’s model, the odds are basically flipped for the series with the home team holding roughly a 66 percent chance of winning. The Suns’ odds of winning both games would then be about 25 percent and 22 percent of winning all three including the Pistons as well. The game after that is a home contest against the Spurs and if the Suns can win out through that game — a cumulative 2.7 percent chance — they would hit 20 straight wins, tying them for the fifth-longest win streak of all-time and the third-longest of the last decade.

Will the Houston Rockets ever win again?

At the other end of the spectrum, we find the hapless Houston Rockets, losers of 15 games in a row. The longest losing streaks in NBA history both belong to The Process 76ers — 28 games during the 2015-16 season and 26 games during the 2013-14 season. The only other 20-game losing streak in the last decade belongs to … last year’s Rockets, who lost 20 in a row last season, from early February to late March.

The Rockets’ next five games are against the Bulls, Hornets, Thunder (twice), and the Magic. The Rockets are actually favored for their home games against the Thunder and Magic in that stretch and per 538’s NBA prediction model, the Rockets have just an 11.2 percent chance of losing all five and tying their streak from last season.

However, if they don’t pick up a win in that stretch, things get tougher. Their next eight games after that are against the Pelicans, Nets, Bucks, Grizzlies, Hawks, Cavaliers, Knicks and Pistons. Of those, the games against the Pelicans and the Pistons are the only ones in which 538’s model gives them a 30 percent chance or better of picking up a win and they aren’t favored in either. So if the Rockets can’t pick up a win in this next five-game stretch, the longest losing streak in NBA history could become an increasingly real possibility.

Steph Curry is on track for a new NBA record 3-point streak

Curry has played 16 games this season and made a 3-pointer in every single one. In fact, you’d have to go back more than three years to Nov. 8, 2018, to find a game in which he did make a single 3. That’s a streak of 141 consecutive games, the second-longest run of all time. And of course, the longest run of all time belongs to … also, Steph Curry — he made a 3-pointer in 157 consecutive games from Nov. 13, 2014, to Nov. 3, 2016.

Curry will need 17 more games with a made 3-pointer to break his own record, something that seems almost inevitable. He’s made at least one 3 in 739 of his 778 career regular-season games (95 percent). He’s also averaging a career-high 13.1 3-point attempts per game, more opportunities to keep the record going in each game. Using his career 3-point percentage and all else being equal, we’d expect him to attempt 13 3-pointers without a single make once every 974 games. As long as he keeps firing and stays healthy, he’s going to get there.

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