The Spurs went on an absolute tear to finish the 2011-12 season, and rode a 10-game winning streak into the postseason.
After sweeping the Jazz and then the Clippers in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the streak reached 18 straight, and two games into the Western Conference finals against the Thunder, it was up to 20, with the Spurs needing just two more wins to reach the NBA Finals.
Once the streak came to an end following a 20-point loss in Oklahoma City, so did San Antonio’s season. The Spurs never recovered, and lost four straight games to be eliminated from contention.
Gregg Popovich remembers the strain the streak put on his team during the most critical time of the year, which is why he said he wouldn’t want to be a part of another streak like that in the future.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
“I don’t want to win 20 games in a row [again]. Now that might sound … ‘Well, who wouldn’t want to do that?’ [But] it’s too much of a grind. I was hoping for a loss [in last season’s playoffs]. I thought about doing things to make sure we get a loss here and there, but you can’t do that to your team.”
Pop, though, was careful to explain that a 20-game win streak for the Spurs — in comparison to the 20 consecutive victories that Miami lugged Friday night into Milwaukee — created such a weight because of when it was happening, with half of those W’s coming during the playoffs.
Reason being: “When you win that many games in a row,” Pop contends, “… you’re very likely going to lose [up] to three games when that thing is done. It’s just such a letdown. And in the playoffs you can’t afford that. Not against a team that is as young and talented as Oklahoma City.”
It’s an interesting way of looking at it, because one would think that by putting together a streak like that to end the season and then continuing it into the third round of the playoffs, a team would be peaking at just the right time.
Popovich knows the ins and outs of the game and the mental ways different things can affect his players better than anyone, however, so we’ll just have to take his word for it that a winning streak of that length entering the postseason isn’t the best way to navigate the path to a title.