The Golden State Warriors beat the San Antonio Spurs in Oakland on Thursday night, picking up win No. 70 and securing the top seed in the Western Conference for the playoffs.
With three games remaining in the regular season, the 70-9 Warriors find themselves faced with a unique (and certainly enviable) problem. Now that they have locked up the top seed, should Steve Kerr rest his starters to ensure that they are healthy and fresh for the playoffs? Or should he play them in the final three games, sacrificing fresh legs and potentially risking injury, knowing that if they win all three, they will become the first NBA team to win 73 games in a regular season?
Kerr addressed the situation in his news conference after Thursday night’s win, seemingly acknowledging that it would be up to the players.
“We’re going to talk about it tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve sort of been putting it off for as long as we were able to, which was until we got the one seed. Now that we have that, I’m inclined to give some guys a rest if they need it. I’ve also sort of made a pact with the guys that if they’re not tired, if they’re not banged up, and they want to go for this record, then–“
Kerr’s voice trailed off, and he flashed a wry smile.
Draymond Green also addressed the record on Thursday night. Like Kerr, he said he wouldn’t pressure his teammates into playing for the record if they felt they needed rest.
But Green also made it clear that he and his teammates were all in and would go full steam ahead for 73 wins:
I actually texted our group chat yesterday. I said a bunch. Like, if you want to rest and you think you need rest, I understand. Because I didn’t want guys to feel like I’ve stated so many times, over and over, even before Coach Kerr wanted me to, that I want the record. With the media, at practice, whatever …
I didn’t want guys that necessarily need rest but feel pressure from me, like somebody’s going to look at them sideways if they thought they need a rest.
So I just told the guys in the chat, ‘You know, if you need a rest, take the rest. And if you don’t, we’re going after it.’
In other words, don’t expect any of the Warriors to sit out these last three games.
To reach 73 wins, they must beat the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, the Spurs in San Antonio, and then the Grizzles once more, in Oakland.
One of those games stands out — at San Antonio on Sunday.
A lot could be on the line then. The Spurs have not lost at home this season, and no team has gone 41-0 at home during the regular season. Knowing Gregg Popovich, he could very likely rest his players on Sunday. Or he could play his full squad not just because of the home record, but because he knows that a win would end the Warriors’ dreams of 73 wins. Should the Warriors lose in San Antonio, they’ll certainly rest everyone for the final game of the season.
If nothing else, it’s unfortunate that Golden State’s game in San Antonio isn’t the last one of the regular season, considering all that could be at stake. Even still, the fact the Warriors don’t seem to be holding back from pursuing the record will make the final games of the regular season much more thrilling than usual.