Kevin Durant’s streak ended Tuesday night. The Thunder’s streak can end Wednesday night.
For five straight years, the Thunder has improved its record over the previous season. But to extend that record to six straight seasons, the Thunder has to win out.
And the toughest assignment remaining for OKC is Wednesday night in Los Angeles against the Clippers, who, by the way, are on their own streak, having improved four straight seasons. The Clips need only go 2-2 in their final four games to best their record of 56-26 last season.
The Thunder went 23-59 in its first Oklahoma City season, but that was a three-game jump over the 20-62 record as the Seattle SuperSonics in 2007-08.
The Thunder then went 50-32 (.610 winning percentage) in 2009-10, 55-27 (.671) in 2010-11, 47-19 (.712) in 2011-12 and 60-22 (.732) last season.
To go 61-21, the Thunder has to beat the Clippers, the Pelicans in OKC on Friday night, the Pacers in Indianapolis on Sunday, the Pelicans in New Orleans on Monday and the Pistons in OKC on Wednesday.
If the Thunder can sweep those games, it will tie an NBA record.
Only once in league history has a franchise improved its record six consecutive seasons. And you’ll never guess who.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, in their fourth year of existence, 1992-93, went 19-63, a four-game improvement over the previous season. And the T-Wolves kept getting marginally better – 20-62, 21-61, 26-56, 40-42 and finally 45-37 in 1997-98. The next season, the ‘Wolves fell back to 25-25 in the season marred by a labor dispute.
Nine other times has a franchise improved five straight seasons.
* The Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks from 1954-55 through 1958-59, with winning percentages of .361, .458, .472, .569 and .681.
* The Atlanta Hawks from 2005-06 through 2009-10, with winning percentages of .317, .366, .451, .573 and .646.
* The Boston Celtics from 1955-56 through 1959-60, with winning percentages of .542, .611, .681, .722 and .787.
* The Dallas Mavericks from 1998-99 through 2002-03, with winning percentages of .380, .488, .646, .695 and .732.
* The Los Angeles Clippers from 1987-88 through 1991-92, with winning percentages of .207, .256, .366, .378 and .549.
* The Memphis Grizzlies from 2008-09 through 2012-13, with winning percentages of .293, .488, .561, .621 and .683. The streak is over. Memphis went 56-26 last season; the best the Grizzlies can do this year is 50-32.
* The Philadelphia 76ers from 1973-74 through 1977-78, with winning percentages of .305, .415, .561, .610 and .671.
* The 76ers from 1996-97 through 2000-01, with winning percentages of .268, .378, .560, .598 and .683.
* The Utah Jazz from 1985-86 through 1989-90, with winning percentages of .512, .537, .573, .622 and .671.
A few notes about the streakers.
The Thunder and the Celtics in the ‘50s are the only franchises on the list that had at least four of their five seasons playing at a high level (.600 or above).
The Celtics and the Jazz in the ‘80s is the only franchise on the list that was above .500 the entire streak.
Many of the streaks either started or were helped by the arrival of transcendent superstars. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with the Thunder. Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks. Karl Malone with the Jazz. Bill Russell with the Celtics. Allen Iverson with the 76ers in the 1990s. Julius Erving with the 76ers in the ‘70s. Bob Pettit with the Hawks in the ‘50s. If the Clippers join the list, Blake Griffin (and Chris Paul).