- Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
The most anticipated moment of the 2015-2016 NBA season, one that seemed inevitable a week ago, is now in jeopardy.
After the Golden State Warriors suffered an overtime meltdown at home against the 26-52 Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night, the Warriors will have to win their final four games to set the record for most wins in an NBA season.
That chase for 73 wins, beating the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record, appeared to be a lock a week ago, with the Warriors needing to go just 5-2 over their final seven games.
Their task is now significantly more difficult, as they will have to beat the San Antonio Spurs twice. One of those games is in San Antonio, where the Spurs (65-12) have not lost all season.
After the meltdown against the Timberwolves, Warriors forward Draymond Green was brutally honest about the team’s attitude. And while it may sound alarming, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, nor should it worry anybody. Green told reporters when asked whether the Warriors got caught up in the hype of chasing 73 wins (via ESPN):
Honestly? Yes. I wouldn’t necessarily say caught up in the hype.
It’s human nature to where, all right, kind of ready for the regular season to end. Talking 82 games, we get bored with that after awhile. And that’s no excuse, just, I’m always give it to y’all real, and that’s about as real as I can be. It’s kind of at a point now where you’re ready for the regular season to be over.
Now, saying that, we got to be a better enough ball club to continue to try to get better with these games and try and go into the playoffs the right way and not stumble in the playoffs, so, think that’s something we have to focus on. We got to try to finish out this regular season strong.
Steve Kerr, who was on the record-setting 1995-1996 Bulls team, shared a similar sentiment, saying (via the San Jose Mercury News): “The same thing happened 20 years ago. Even the game [the Bulls] broke the record we played very poorly. This doesn’t surprise me.”
The Warriors are not a perfect team. As Kerr said, they often try too hard to hit “home runs,” aiming for flashy passes and big, showstopping 3-pointers. They’re prone to turnovers, and their defense has slipped.
But a look at the Warriors’ losses this season should quell any worries about how they will fare in the postseason. The Warriors have dropped games to the Mavericks (without Curry), the Pistons (who they won’t see again this season), the Blazers (who were spurred by a 51-point explosion by Damian Lillard), the Spurs, and the Celtics.
The Spurs game may be the only loss of note. Whereas the Celtics played a hard-fought game, those two teams won’t see each other again this season. The Spurs are a legitimate threat to the Warriors, but the Warriors played shorthanded against the Spurs and had beaten them by 30 points in their first meeting.
Perhaps more to the point, the Warriors have taken care of business this season – they’re 16-2 against the other top seven teams in the NBA.
It’s natural for a team this good to play down to competition. Additionally, each night, regardless of their opponent, the Warriors are getting every team’s best shot – everyone is up to play the Warriors, and nobody wants to be on the wrong end of history.
The Warriors have spoken at length about their chase for 73 wins, acknowledging in recent weeks that they want the record. That may still be the case over the four remaining games, but this is a team itching for the postseason, tired of the grind of an 82-game schedule. As the Warriors have noted several times, winning 73 games is ultimately meaningless – they care most about winning the championship.
When the playoffs begin, it will be a new season for the Warriors, and as they’ve shown this regular season, they’ve handled true opponents with ease.