On pace to shatter the NBA's season wins record, the Golden State Warriors are starting to look ahead to the bigger prize.
With Draymond Green sitting out, the Warriors vie for an eighth consecutive victory Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets.
Golden State will play its fourth game in six days when it visits Denver and hosts the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, a grueling stretch that has interim coach Luke Walton contemplating resting some key players. He decided earlier Wednesday to do so with Green, who's averaging a team-high 34.9 minutes while playing in all 38 games.
Walton also mentioned eventually giving breaks to veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston during the back-to-back sequence, though they're expected to face the Nuggets.
"They always want to play but they also understand the big picture," Walton said during Tuesday's practice. "I think earlier in the season it was tough to have them included in the conversation, but this is a hard part of the season. Guys are worn down and I think they understand now if we come to them with the training staff, if they think it's a smart idea to give them a night or two off here or there, then they'll be more receptive to that."
Green was forced into heavier minutes with Harrison Barnes sidelined 16 games by a sprained ankle and Stephen Curry missing two with a shin injury. Both have since returned to give Walton the option of reducing the versatile forward's court time.
"Now that we have Harrison back (Green's) definitely a guy we can look into giving a little bit of time off to," Walton said.
Depth has been a prime reason why Golden State (36-2) is halfway to the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls' league mark of 72 wins three games prior to the season's midpoint. It was again a factor in Monday's 111-103 victory over Miami, with the bench sparking a pivotal 12-4 run to begin the fourth quarter after the Heat pulled within 80-77 after three.
''They came in and took control of the game and got us to the finish line," said Curry, who combined with backcourt mate Klay Thompson for a 17-of-42 shooting effort.
Barnes contributed 12 points in his fifth game back and totaled 38 in two of the Warriors' three wins over Denver (14-24) this season. He sat out a 111-108 overtime victory in Oakland on Jan. 2 in which Curry was limited to 14 minutes and Green compiled 29 points, 17 rebounds and 14 assists.
That loss was part of a seven-game skid for the Nuggets, but they've since won two of three as they've gotten healthier. Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari is averaging 25.8 points in five games since returning from a sprained ankle, while rookie Emmanuel Mudiay (ankle) had 11 and six assists in his first game back from a month-long absence during Sunday's 95-92 win over slumping Charlotte.
Gallinari recorded 27 points and the Nuggets held on despite going scoreless over the final 4:17.
''It was kind of an ugly win at the end,'' he said. ''I'll take it. We needed one.''
Denver was without Kenneth Faried (personal) for a second straight game and Jameer Nelson sat out with a hip injury, though both are expected to play Wednesday.
The Nuggets, playing the second of a season-high eight-game homestand, have lost four straight and six of seven in the series. Golden State earned a 118-103 win at Denver on Nov. 22.
The Warriors have 40, 35 and 34 assists in the season series, three of their top seven totals in 2015-16.