Using the words “Golden State Warriors” and “turmoil” in the same sentence at any point this season seemed as likely as the Los Angeles Lakers making a playoff run during Kobe Bryant’s retirement tour.
And while it’s still an overreaction to claim the Warriors are in a funk, a record-setting loss to the lowly Lakers followed by a narrow 119–113 victory over the Orlando Magic raised some minor concerns. Chief of which were turnovers. The Dubs coughed the ball up 44 times in those two games, something head coach Steve Kerr called, “Inexcusable,” per the San Jose Mercury News’ Tim Kawakami.
“That’s kind of our weakness, sometimes the game comes too easy for our guys and they think they can just do anything,” Kerr added. “What we have to get back to is simple, simple, simple.”
The Warriors haven’t had issues facing off against stiff competition this season. They’re 13–0 against teams that boast a winning percentage of .600 or better, which shows that Stephen Curry and Co. always get up for a challenge. But when they face teams they may take for granted, they’ve seen much different outcomes. As a result, their record against sub-.500 teams is virtually identical to their mark against opponents above .500.
Golden State has still positioned itself well to break the NBA’s all-time win-loss record set by the 72–10 Chicago Bulls. Even after that inexcusable and entirely unexpected loss against the Lakers, the Warriors are outpacing the Bulls by one win after Game 63 of the season.
But while the Warriors are still outpacing the Bulls following a win Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, there are 19 games remaining in the season. GState needs to win 16 of those contests for the record. So who’s left standing in the Warriors’ way? We’ll break down what’s left on the Warriors’ plate.
The Warriors will face two of the five teams they lost to in 2015–16 twice more during the closing stretch of the season. Those two teams that bested the Dubs once are the Mavericks and Trail Blazers—the latter will play Golden State on Friday.
In Portland’s win over Golden State on Feb. 19, Damian Lillard thoroughly outplayed the reigning MVP en route to the best performance of his career. He poured in a career-high 51 points on 9-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Lillard added seven assists and a career-best six steals in the 137–105 blowout victory, and, because it’s worth noting, he didn’t turn the ball over.
When the Mavericks handed the Warriors their second loss of the season, they nearly dished out a wire-to-wire win (Golden State’s final lead was 10–9 with 6:58 left in the first quarter).
Of course, Kerr’s crew suited up without Curry in that affair—who was sidelined due to a leg injury. On that basis, the Mavs’ win over the reigning champions warrants an asterisk next to it.
But, as stated earlier, the Warriors tend to rise to the occasion when faced with a big challenge. The prospect of besting opponents who have already notched wins against them will only provide added motivation.
Judging by their losses to L.A., Denver and Milwaukee, it’s not crazy to think the Warriors could suffer yet another letdown against a bad team like the Pelicans or Timberwolves.
But even if that doesn’t happen, Golden State closes out the final month of the season with one game versus the Clippers (who have admittedly stunk against good teams, but are nevertheless dangerous), two games against the Grizzlies (who are weathering the storm without Marc Gasol) and three against the mighty Spurs, the latter of which is clearly their biggest competition in the grand scheme of things, as the Spurs boast a league-best average point differential.
One would think the Spurs are too talented to be swept at the hands of the Warriors, but even if San Antonio avenges its previous defeat or splits the season series, that only accounts for two losses. Golden State would have to lose four times moving forward to miss out on standing alone with the NBA’s best record ever.
The Warriors did lose four games throughout a 19-game span after starting the season 24–0 (from Dec. 12 through Jan. 20), but no other stretch of 19 contests this season has yielded more than three losses, no matter how you cut the schedule.
Even with three showdowns against the Spurs looming, you have to like this team’s chance at history.