Chase for 73: Warriors on the verge of history in matchup with Grizzlies
The last day of the regular season! Meaningful basketball! 81 games later, these two elusive entities are set to collide on Wednesday in Oakland. This will be an improbable end to an improbable Warriors season, regardless of victor. If they win No. 73, it’s a remarkable all-time feat. If the Grizzlies somehow pull it off? Seriously-memorable upset. Whatever happens, the hoopla will be merited.
Golden State’s dominance dating back to the 2015 playoffs has been pervasive enough that exactly how they plan to get this final job done needs little explanation. Shoot some threes, set some semi-illegal picks, get shooters open, run in transition, let Stephen Curry be Stephen Curry, and if the going gets too rough, just let Draymond Green go get the ball. At least some component of that recipe has worked, 72 times. Once more (with feeling, mind you) shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Never mind the eternal sporting glory on the line: the Warriors spent a laid-back shootaround on Tuesday hanging out with members of the L.A. Angels. Draymond Green lost a game of P-I-G to Mike Trout. Steph Curry lost one to Joe Smith (no, not that Joe Smith). Though not necessarily a testament to casual dominance, that should tell you all you need to know about the team's mindset.
They’ll be playing at home, where they are 38–2 this season. They’re coming in off two entire days of rest, the most they’ve had in more than a month. Playing on two days of rest, they are 13–1 this season. This, without a doubt, bodes well. Are they being way too chill about this? We’ll find out.
Does the matchup matter?
It's true that the Warriors' level of play has slipped a bit in April, mostly in the form of sloppy turnovers and streakier shooting than usual. This is natural, given the amount of minutes all the major players have logged in the past year. The Grizzlies gave them a run for it in Memphis on Thursday, with the Warriors coming back to win 100-99 thanks to heads-up putback by Draymond Green and a pair of breakneck, contested final shots by Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson.
The Grizzlies were overpowered by the Clippers, 110-84, on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. It’s not all their fault: Memphis has fielded the league’s most significantly-injured roster dating back to February. After some shrewd deadline moves, they field a strangely-endearing, ragtag cast that has salvaged a sixth straight postseason berth. This is a team known for competing when it counts — it’s kind of an overplayed trope, but it is a fact that Memphis’s key players are extremely competitive. Trust that the Grizzlies won’t fail for lack of trying: their final playoff position remains at stake. Put it this way: there are far, far less-interesting opponents the Warriors could have drawn here.
What if...the Warriors lose?
What if. Well, it would be far from the end of the world. Getting this close to a record that some thought unassailable, then taking an unexpected loss at the very end would surely sting for the Warriors. But it would be all kinds of unfair to put a negative spin on a 72-win season.
Another subplot: Steph Curry needs eight three-pointers to become the first player ever to hit 400 of them in a season— and he’s already the first to make 300. He’s now shooting for a made three in 152 straight regular-season games. Put that in context for a second: how many things, conscious or unconscious (both are applicable to Curry) have you ever done 152 times in a row? Have you brushed your teeth 152 consecutive days? Taken 152 straight showers? Be honest. Nobody’s judging.
Some other records these guys have set: most road wins ever (34), first team never to lose twice in a row over the course of season, and also the first team to never lose to the same opponent twice. 73 would be the next-to-last stamp. But hey — the ‘96 Bulls would like to remind you about their championship. Hear it? It’s the sound of the all-time conversation: the Warriors are at the table, and they’d like to have a word.