Milwaukee Bucks: Snapping the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time win streak

MILWAUKEE - 1972: Wilt Chamberlain
MILWAUKEE - 1972: Wilt Chamberlain /

When the Los Angeles Lakers put together the greatest run of wins in NBA history, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who ultimately got the better of them.

Milwaukee Bucks fans don’t have to cast their minds back too far to remember their team stopping a legendary win streak, as the franchise has a storied history of snapping such great runs.

Most recently, the Bucks were the team to end the Golden State Warriors’ 28-game winning streak which spanned the end of the 2014-15 season to the start of the 2015-16 season, but long before that Milwaukee also grabbed the headlines for putting an end to the longest streak in NBA history.

Having set the record for most consecutive wins at 20 games during their championship winning season in 1971, the Bucks weren’t able to admire their record for very long.

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In the following season, a legendary Lakers team, packed with stars managed to blow that mark out of the water. In the process, they set an incredible record that still stands to this very day.

With a team that included Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, among others, the Lakers reeled off 33 consecutive wins from early in the season up until January 9, 1972.

It was on that date, though, that the mighty Lakers made their one and only visit of that season to play the defending champions at the Milwaukee Arena.

While the Lakers were grabbing headlines for their outstanding play, the Bucks were building an exceptional record of their own. At the time the two teams met in Milwaukee, the Bucks boasted a record of 35-8, as opposed to the Lakers 39-3. In the end, the Bucks finished the season with 63 wins, which perhaps makes it unsurprising that they offered the Lakers their sternest test of the year.

The game itself unfolded as an incredibly well-rounded performance from the Lakers ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s dominance.

Strong runs at the end of each half allowed the Bucks to create some real separation between themselves and the Lakers in terms of the final score, with the game finishing up 120-104.

Kareem led all scorers with 39 points, although 18 points from Lucius Allen, and 17 each from John Block and Oscar Robertson offered strong support for the Bucks.

For the Lakers, six players scored points, with all of Jerry West, Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian, Gail Goodrich, Flynn Robinson and Wilt Chamberlain scoring between 15 and 20 points each. Only current Miami Heat president Pat Riley failed to score for L.A. on the night.

Perhaps just as impressive as the length of the Lakers’ run was the fact that they won every game during that time by a minimum of five points, and the majority by at least a double-digit margin. As a result, Milwaukee’s 16-point win was all the more notable.

In the aftermath of the game, Bucks coach Larry Costello shared his joy at being the team to snap the run with the Associated Press:

"“It’s fantastic. I’m just glad we were in a position to do it. I’m glad Atlanta didn’t beat them Friday night so we would have the chance.”"

Unlike his coach, Lucius Allen took a different approach in his comments to the AP post-game. Allen, rightly viewing the Lakers as the Bucks’ biggest rival at that time, issued a rallying cry to the rest of the league following the end of the streak.

"“We hope the other teams pick up the slack now that they know they’re not invincible.”"

Although the Bucks finished the season with a stellar record and an excellent chance of retaining their title, in the end it was Milwaukee who couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain in regard to the Lakers.

The Lakers got the better of Milwaukee in six games when the two teams met in the Western Conference Finals, and then went on to defeat the New York Knicks in five games to win the championship.

Although the 1972 Lakers were undoubtedly a great team, they were also an ageing group, and one who with hindsight it feels fair to say the young Bucks maybe should have been able to push further in the championship stakes.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: The greatest regular season game in NBA history

While that wasn’t to be, nobody can take away the fact that the Bucks did get the better of them on this occasion, to snap a streak that may never be surpassed.