(Chris Covatta/NBAE/Getty Images)
The Weekly Dish
by Brian Witt
It's official. There's never been a more accomplished regular season in NBA history.
For the week of Monday, Apr. 11 – Sunday, Apr. 17
It’s official. Including the 30 this season, there have been 1,423 team-seasons in NBA history, and not a single one of them accomplished more than the Warriors have this year.
With their 72nd win of the season over the Spurs on Sunday, the Warriors guaranteed they’ll be forever mentioned amongst the pantheon of the greatest regular season teams in the history of the sport, and with one game left to play, could catapult themselves unequivocally to the top of that list. There’s no way around it. With the vaunted 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season record hanging over their shoulders since storming out of the gates to a record start, the Dubs have been measured against that historic performance, and have now silenced every doubter.
They did it at the beginning, when they set a new NBA record by starting the season with 24-straight wins. They did it at home, where they set a new league record with 54 consecutive victories at Oracle Arena. They did it on the road, where they posted 34 wins, the most in NBA history. They did it consistently, becoming the first team in NBA history to go the entire season without consecutive defeats and the first team to go a full season without losing to the same team twice. They did it with resolve, posting an 18-2 record in the second game of a league-high 20 back-to-back sets. They did it with dependability, filling in seamlessly for injured starters, rotation players and coaches. Most of all, they did it spectacularly, forever warping our collective understanding of what kinds of incredible things can actually be accomplished in the modern era of team sports.
You can nitpick about how the Warriors would stack up against the greatest teams of NBA lore, but that’s truly a futile exercise. There’s simply no way to know for sure, and anyone who asserts otherwise is fooling themselves. That said, the very fact that the Warriors have compelled those discussions is a grandiose compliment to their accomplishment. The 72 wins amassed by the ’95-’96 Bulls was supposed to be an untouchable record, right up there with Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, Cal Ripken Jr.’s ironman streak, and any other record that simply seems impossible under the constructs of modern sports. And yet, it wasn’t untouchable. Despite the round-the-clock national attention, despite the endless spotlight, despite the grueling path to the Championship they now prepare to defend, the Dubs kept pace with those legendary Bulls each step of the way, and now, they’re legends themselves.
Of course, the story – and the pursuit – are not over. There’s still that slightly complicated matter of the upcoming postseason, which may hold the key to precisely how this Warriors team is renowned and regarded within the NBA annals. Back in 1996, Ron Harper had shirts printed for his Bulls teammates that bore the phrase, “72-10…Don’t Mean a Thing Without the Ring!” to remind them the ultimate task was far from complete. We’ve yet to hear of any reports regarding similarly conceived apparel for the Warriors, but the overriding theme most definitely applies. While the best record in regular season history is something the entire Golden State organization and their fans can be eternally proud of, it won’t come without a sour taste in the mouth if the Dubs don’t follow up that regular season record with a second consecutive championship. It won’t come easy, but neither did the 72 regular season wins, despite how effortlessly they made it look at times. Now, a team that has been measured against history all season long must measure up to itself.
Standout Spotlight: Draymond Green
If there’s one player most responsible for the Warriors reaching 72 wins, the argument could be made that that player is Draymond Green. Don’t get me wrong; Stephen Curry has had an out-of-this-world season and is more likely to be named the first unanimous MVP in league history than he is to not take home his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award, but Green has been tremendous in his own right. Forget the triple-doubles, the stifling defense, the endless motor…just like Curry, there isn’t anyone quite like him in the entire league, and there’s absolutely no way the Warriors get to where they are without his unique presence. With averages of 16.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game last week, he helped right the ship as the Dubs stumbled slightly down the backstretch, and there wasn’t a louder voice in the room pushing the Warriors to each and every necessary win in order to break the record. He recently confessed that he simply wants to be known and remembered as a winner, and thanks in large part to his personal contributions, he’s well on his way toward that reputation.
The Week Ahead:
It’s hard to believe, but here we are at the end of the regular season. 81 games down, one more to go, and it carries significant historical importance. The Warriors host the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday in their final game of the regular season, and with a victory, would reach 73 wins on the season and pass the ’95-’96 Bulls for the most in NBA history. The end of that game will put the regular season in the rear view mirror and move the Warriors into full playoff mode, as we wait to find out who their first round opponent will be. As of this writing, any one of the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Jazz or Rockets could still end up matched up with Golden State in the first round, depending on how the remaining games for each of those teams shake out. Either way, there’s one more game to cap off this record-shattering season, and frankly, there wouldn’t be a more fitting way to end it than with the most hallowed record of them all.