The Golden State Warriors entered the 2015-16 season as a rare breed -- defending champions with a chip on their shoulders.
The team eliminated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals to win the franchise’s first NBA championship since 1975. But injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love allowed some to discredit Golden State’s accomplishment. The Warriors were determined to make it clear in ‘15-16 that their team was a legitimate champion.
The Warriors’ quest began without their coach, Steve Kerr, who was sidelined due to debilitating migraines caused by an offseason operation on his back. Assistant coach Luke Walton replaced Kerr to start the season and the Warriors responded in a big way.
The Warriors began the season with an unbelievable 24-game winning streak. Led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State scored 100-plus points in every game during this streak and excelled with an undefeated target on their back. The team finally lost on Dec. 12 to the Milwaukee Bucks, 108-95. The Warriors’ 24-0 start shattered the previous NBA record for undefeated start to a season, a 15-0 mark the Houston Rockets (1993-94) and Washington Capitols (1948-49) both shared.
Despite the end of their streak, the winning continued for Golden State. When Kerr returned to the sidelines on Jan. 22 after 43 games, the team sat in first place with a record of 39-4. At this point in the season, the Chicago Bulls’ NBA record of 72 wins in 1995-96 was well within sight for the Warriors.
Golden State entered the All-Star break at 48-4, which was the best-ever start to an NBA season. Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green represented the Warriors at the All-Star Game in Toronto. And on All-Star Saturday Night, Thompson shot past Curry to win the 2016 NBA Three-Point Contest.
The season was filled with memorable games for Curry and the rest of the Warriors. Curry scored more than 45 points in six games, including a remarkable 46-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that game, Curry made 11 3-pointers, had six assists and the game-winning shot at the buzzer to win the game in overtime. That was Golden State's 28th road win, which set a franchise record. Overall, the team finished with an NBA-record 34 road wins.
The Warriors started April at 68-7, needing wins in five of their final seven games to break the Bulls’ mark. Their odds to break the record fell when they lost to the Boston Celtics at Oracle Arena on April 1. The loss snapped the Warriors’ 54-game regular season home winning streak and put their shot at history in jeopardy.
Golden State went 4-1 over the next five games to create a must-win scenario for the final night of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies. The team stepped up in the final game to win 125-104 and set the NBA record for most wins in a regular season.
Curry finished the season as the NBA scoring leader with averages of 30.1 points, 6.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He shot 50.4 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from 3-point range and 90.8 percent from the free throw line to become just the seventh player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club. His remarkable season netted him Kia MVP honors as Curry became the first unanimous winner in league history. Curry broke numerous records during the season including most 3-pointers made in a season (402) and a regular-season game (12).
Coach Kerr was also honored with his first NBA Coach of the Year award. The Warriors were the first team in NBA history to go an entire season without back-to-back losses.
Unfortunately for Golden State, its historic regular season ended in disappointment when the team fell to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals.