Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesWith just 30 games to play, the Golden State Warriors are on pace to break one of the most storied team records in North American sports: 72 wins, set by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1995-96. But while the record is within reach, there is a huge red flag that will make it very difficult.
After 52 games, the Warriors are 48-4, a game ahead of where the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls were at the same point. In order to reach 73 wins, the Warriors would have to go 25-5 down the stretch. That might seem easy until one looks at what the Warriors will face down the stretch.
The final 16 games of the season includes 13 games against teams that will either be fighting for a playoff spot or potentially fighting for a better playoff seed, including three games against the Spurs and two each against the Mavericks and the Grizzlies. There are also three sets of games that will come on back-to-back nights, with one or both games coming on the road.
Here are the final four weeks of the regular season for the Warriors, and the red flag for each:
- Mar. 16 vs. New York Knicks — Knicks could still be scrapping for a playoff spot.
- Mar. 18 at Dallas Mavericks — Mavs (currently 6th in the West) will be fighting to move up in standings to avoid first-round matchup against the Thunder (3rd).
- Mar. 19 at San Antonio Spurs — The first of 3 matchups against the Spurs in final 14 games is also the second game in two days on the road.
- Mar. 21 at Minnesota Timberwolves — no red flag.
- Mar. 23 vs. Los Angeles Clippers — Clippers will be jockeying for optimal playoff positioning.
- Mar. 25 vs. Dallas Mavericks — Mavs will still be in hunt to avoid playing the Warriors, Spurs, or Thunder in the first round.
- Mar. 27 vs. Philadelphia 76ers — no red flag.
- Mar. 29 vs Washington Wizards — The Wizards are in the hunt for one of the final playoff spots in the East.
- Mar. 30 at Utah Jazz — The Jazz are battling for a playoff spot (currently tied for final spot) and this is another back-to-back game on the road.
- Apr. 1 vs. Boston Celtics — The Celtics are currently 3rd in the East but will be scrapping fow wins as there are only 3.5 games separating the 3rd seed and the 8th seed.
- Apr. 3 vs. Portland Trail Blazers — The Trail Blazers are currently tied with the Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West and just a half-game ahead of the Rockets.
- Apr. 5 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves — no red flag.
- Apr. 7 vs. San Antonio Spurs — Both teams will likely be resting starters which makes this a crapshoot.
- Apr. 9 at Memphis Grizzlies — The Grizz have a strong hold on the 5th seed in the West, but if things change there will be incentive to avoid falling to the 6th seed and facing the Thunder in the playoffs.
- Apr. 10 at San Antonio Spurs — Again, both teams will likely be resting starters which makes this a crapshoot. It is also the third back-to-back on the road during these games.
- Apr. 13 vs Memphis Grizzlies — At best, this is another crapshoot. At worst, the Grizzlies will need the win for playoff seeding.
Nobody thinks the Warriors will lose all or even most of the games above with red flags. But it also would not be shocking to see them lose 4-5 of these games. If that happens, the only way the Warriors are reaching 73 wins is if they win all 14 games to start the post-All-Star break schedule.
For their part, the Warriors admit that breaking the record is on their mind.
In a recent column by Marc Stein of ESPN, Klay Thompson was asked if the Warriors will aim for the record, responding, “Oh, we will.”
However, Draymond Green made it clear that while breaking the record would be cool, it is not something the team is obsessed with.
“It’ll come up every now and then,” Green told Stein. “But it’s more so, ‘Man, could you imagine if that happened?’ But it’s never like, ‘Hey, let’s focus on getting 72.’ Our focus is always to get better each and every time we step on the floor. And I think if we do that, we get to 72. But if we win 72 or 73 games or 74 and we don’t win a championship, nobody will ever care about the 70-whatever wins in the regular season.”
Going on a hot stretch is not inconceivable for the Warriors. But at some point, fatigue has to set in and resting players will become a priority. In other words, breaking the record won’t be as easy as it may seem right now.