If there’s one team that can reach 72 wins and match the ’95-96 Bulls, it’s the Warriors. This is a team that won No. 70 on the year — a gritty 112-101 victory over the stout and pesky San Antonio Spurs — and it desperately needed this win to secure the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage for the playoffs. Now Golden State is 70-9 with a real chance at finishing with a record-setting 73 wins with three games left.
It would be simple to assume the Warriors are favorites to beat the Spurs on the road at San Antonio in a hostile environment on Sunday night. With the Warriors’ win No. 73 in jeopardy, this team — which is looking weary and vulnerable lately — history is still in the making, but they have to shake off the disappointment of their late-season swoon. They have the best team in the West — there’s no disputing the fact that the Dubs have lured a national audience into a state of wonderment. But entering this game, they were in a strange and unfamiliar place, with two losses in their last four games.
With the hype and hysteria surrounding the Warriors, who continue to entertain fans nationally, they have kept alive their pursuit of reaching a record 73 wins. As a rarity, a fascinating novelty, Golden State is must-see TV — ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages are curious to see if the Bulls’ 72-10 record is breakable in an era when today’s game is far different from the game of the 90s, with many defensive rules that have changed. It felt, for a second, like nobody could beat the Warriors, but as we all know, it’s humanly impossible to win every game, and with nine losses on the year, they are in a good place to accomplish something no team has ever done before.
This is the challenge the Warriors want, but reality is, they’d have to beat the Spurs one last time on the road, as a run of potential dominance shrinks with two games standing in their way. So now, with two games left against a short-handed Memphis team and one more on the road at San Antonio, where the Spurs are a perfect 39-0, they face the possibility of falling short of 73 wins. This is an opportunity for the Dubs to create a storyline, to show that they can reach 73 wins — something only the Chicago Bulls have done.
They started the year winning their first 24 games in a row, and with a win over the Spurs, they avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time. If the Warriors can manage to go a full season without losing two in a row, it would be historic because that is something no team has ever done. The real joy of watching Golden State isn’t only about Stephen Curry putting on a spectacular shooting display with his textbook shooting, it’s about a team that has made the game a more fun and enjoyable basketball-watching experience.
With the hometown crowd cheering on the Warriors, an embodiment of skill and brilliance, they are fully aware of the history at stake. Not only that, they are led by arguably Curry, the greatest player of his time, if not described as the world’s best. Historically great teams get our attention and showcase their abilities, so it’s not hard to jump on the Warriors’ bandwagon. It’s something of a curiosity that it is typical of fans to easily become enamored with a player as good as Curry. His jersey is the NBA’s top seller. He has claimed top status, and since the beginning of the year, this baby-faced guard has scored at will, shooting the ball better than anyone for a Warriors team that is on the periphery of bringing back-to-back NBA championships to the Bay Area.
There’s not much of a debate here. The Warriors are flirting with perfection, and if they win out, they achieve one of the greatest feats in professional sports history. The Splash Brothers and their teammates are focused on repeating as champions, not on chasing the record 72-10 mark. They have a dangerous shooter, with impossible shooting range, a ridiculous ball-hander and a gifted passer, and they have a slew of players who can light it up from long range to complement him. They have the league’s stingiest defense. They have a bevy of rebounders and shot blockers. They have a championship-caliber team.
For a player like Curry, this wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. He was on a hot streak, single handedly took over the game by draining clutch shots and scored 27 points to lead the Warriors to 70 wins. It’s one thing to join the Bulls as the only teams in the 70-win club. It’s another to survive the playoffs and win with it matters the most. All of this would be an absolute waste if Golden State falls short of back-to-back championships.
It’s not that the Warriors don’t care about a record-setting 73 wins — this is a team still giving chase, even if Steve Kerr wants to decease playing time and rest his players before the playoffs after reaching 70 wins. These guys are locked in on going for 73 and reality is starting to set in. This was a night when tired bodies certainly revealed a lack of focus, plagued by exhaustion and attrition. Having said that, after a sluggish start, the Warriors were roughed up early at home. For this one night, the Spurs put the Warriors back on their heels, but late in the first quarter all of that changed.
The Warriors have already mounted comebacks in the past, everybody knows that, and with the game tied at 15-all late in the first, Golden State closed out the quarter with a 5-0 run and built momentum going into the second quarter. By halftime, their lead ballooned to 12 after Harrison Barnes drained a couple of threes late, and then in the third, Curry was superb, scoring 15 points and dishing out four assists. He wasn’t shooting it much from the outside. He was driving through the lane, dashing past Spurs defenders and darting to the rim.
The good news for the Warriors is that they are capable of beating San Antonio, something they could not do the last time they faced the Spurs on the road. This time around, Curry changed up his game and the rest of his teammates contributed in a big way to avenge a demoralizing 87-79 loss in San Antonio, when he shot a horrid 1-for-12 from beyond the arc. This time around, Curry finished just 3-of-7 from three, and as usual, Golden State still scored from deep. They live and die by the three, finishing 12-of-25 on threes.
They have all the confidence in the world, and if they can perform quite like this on Sunday in San Antonio, they will likely reach the record of 73 wins next Wednesday in their regular-season finale against Memphis.
For these Warriors, a historic 73-win mark is possible, very possible. It seems unprecedented, but it isn’t too far-fetched.