With a 124-117 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors saw their chances of reaching 73 wins and breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls single-season wins record grow faint. The Warriors have now lost two of their last three, and at 69-9, the team will have to win its final four games to reach 73.
|WINS||EXACTLY THIS MANY WINS||AT LEAST THIS MANY WINS|
Our CARM-Elo projection system puts those chances at just 13.4 percent. The team’s odds of getting to 72 wins to tie the record are a good deal rosier, at 55.8 percent. Before Tuesday’s game, the Warriors’ odds had climbed back to 60 percent to break the record and 92 percent to tie.
The ritual hot-taking about the need to rest players instead of continuing to chase the record has already begun. The Warriors players have said they’re going to go after it — although some care more than others — but that was before they knew they’d have to grind out four straight wins against Memphis and San Antonio to close out the season. After Tuesday’s game, coach Steve Kerr wasn’t buying the suggestion that the loss came down to fatigue — he was more concerned about the Warriors screwing around. After going up 25-10 with 5:07 left in the first quarter, the Warriors scored just 3 more points in the period. “We decided to turn it into a show,” he said, “and we started turning it over like crazy.”
Draymond Green was more direct. “It’s human nature to where, all right, kind of ready for the regular season to end,” he said after the game. “Talking 82 games, we get bored with that after a while.”
In our last update on the Warriors’ odds,1 I explained that not only are late-season predictions volatile because of the small number of games left, but they can swing wildly if something the model takes as a near-certainty ends up going the other way. Coming into Tuesday night’s game, CARM-Elo had the Warriors as 95.6 percent favorites — this is what happens when a team drops a game like that.
The loss is particularly surprising given that the Warriors had their full roster available to them. Andrew Bogut returned from a rib injury, and sixth man Andre Iguodala was back from a sprained ankle. (Backup center Festus Ezeli’s first game after an extended absence was Sunday’s win against the Blazers.)
Stephen Curry went 0-8 from the field in the first half Tuesday and finished 7-25, 4-14 from three, for 21 points. Andrew Wiggins had 32 points, five rebounds, four assists and six steals for the Timberwolves, and Shabazz Muhammad, of all people, added 35 points off the bench.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Warriors hadn’t lost after leading by 15 points since April 10, 2014, a span that covered 114 such games. (Of secondary note: That means the Warriors had at least 114 15-point leads — just about a season and a half’s worth of games — in a little less than two years.)
|April 7||vs. SA||59.8%|
|April 9||@ MEM||79.7|
|April 10||@ SA||27.3|
|April 13||vs. MEM||92.1|
The Warriors have the Spurs at home on Thursday, and they remain a slight favorite at 59.8 percent. After that, they go on the road for a back-to-back over the weekend, at Memphis on Saturday and at San Antonio on Sunday, before finishing the season against Memphis at home next Wednesday.
The Warriors find themselves in the strange position of having a 71- or even 72-win season feeling like a disappointment. Whether Golden State’s late-season downturn is the result of a pre-playoffs lack of focus or genuine fatigue or righteous smiting from the Divine, that’s how things are, and how they’ll stay until the team starts ripping off playoff wins — unless it comes up with something pretty unlikely over the next week.
With Tuesday’s win, the Timberwolves move to 26-52, 43 games out of first.