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The Spurs Are Still Big Favorites To Stop The Warriors From Getting 73

Well, that’s one down.

The Golden State Warriors became the second NBA team to reach 70 wins in a season after taking down the San Antonio Spurs 112-101 Thursday night. The Warriors need to win their final three games to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins. Our CARM-Elo ratings put the chances of that happening at a paltry 22.6 percent, up from 13.4 percent before the game.

70 1.3% 100%
71 17.4 98.7
72 58.8 81.3
73 22.6 22.6
Chances the Warriors finish with:

Thursday’s win wasn’t an empty end-of-season-type deal: San Antonio played its starters regular minutes, but the Warriors were in control and held a double-digit lead for most of the game. The big 14-2 first-half run came when San Antonio forward LaMarcus Aldridge dislocated his pinkie finger after being blocked on a layup attempt and had to go to the bench.

San Antonio also plans to play its full lineup in Sunday’s game against Golden State. Right now, CARM-Elo has the Spurs as 70.8 percent favorites in that game — the Warriors will be on the second leg of a road back-to-back — and winning would put the Spurs within one game (against the Oklahoma City Thunder) of being the first team to go undefeated at home in the regular season. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the team tracks minutes and rest closely throughout the season but is also careful about not deconditioning players heading into the playoffs.

April 9 @ MEM 80.5%
April 10 @ SA 29.2
April 13 vs. MEM 92.4
Warriors’ remaining schedule

On Golden State’s side, coach Steve Kerr said he’d talk to the team about resting. “Now that we have [the 1-seed],” he said, “I’m inclined to give some guys a rest if they need it, but 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 — ” at which point he shrugged, closed his eyes and made a pained face. “So, we gotta talk.”

Draymond Green, the Warriors’ power forward, admitted to feeling extra motivation to play because the Warriors will “probably never get to this point again” but said that he’d texted the Warriors’ group chat and told them, “If you need the rest, take the rest. If you don’t, we’re going after it.”

Golden State’s two other remaining games are against the Memphis Grizzlies. CARM-Elo gives the Warriors a 74.4 percent chance of sweeping both games, though as we saw with the Timberwolves game on Tuesday, strange results happen at the ends of seasons.

Probabilistically, the Warriors remain an improbable bet to win 73. But with so much uncertainty going into the San Antonio game, and that game’s odds factoring so heavily into the overall odds of Golden State getting to 73, it’s probably best not to focus on the specific numbers. Even now, 79 games into the Warriors’ remarkable season, the crush of history is still about a 3-to-1 favorite over the champs.

Kyle Wagner is a former senior editor at FiveThirtyEight.