Streaking

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With the Detroit Red Wings currently 10 points out of the last wild card spot with 20 games left in the regular season, the longest playoff streak in North American professional sports (16 current members of the Red Wings roster weren’t even BORN the last time Detroit missed the playoffs) will move from the NHL’s 25 seasons to the NBA’s 20 seasons: the San Antonio Spurs, at 47-13, could officially make it as soon as tonight with a home win against the Timberwolves.

The weird thing for the NBA is who’s next. The rest of the top five, in descending order? Atlanta (9), Memphis (6), the Clippers (5), and the Warriors and Houston (tied at 4). The Hawks missed the playoffs every year from 2000 through 2007. The Grizzlies never made the playoffs across two countries from 1996 until 2003. We forget now, but the Warriors were worse for even longer, missing the playoffs (beginning in the Latrell Sprewell-Tim Hardaway years) for more than a decade, from 1995-2006 and then again from 2008-2012. The Rockets have been better (thanks mostly to Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming, and now James Harden), but still missed the playoffs from 2000-2003 and from 2010-2012. And the Clippers? Right. To recap, from 1977-2011, the Clippers only MADE the playoffs 4 times.

We tend to think of the NBA as the league with the least parity. Which isn’t wrong–since 1980, only 11 teams have won a title, only four of those 11 have won only one title, and two of those four will likely meet in the finals this season. And yet.

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