With one game to go, the Golden State Warriors are 72-9, and having given San Antonio its first home loss of the season on Sunday night, they now have a 93 percent chance to overtake Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls for the best regular-season record in NBA history.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, our CARM-Elo ratings gave Golden State a 31 percent chance to beat San Antonio. And through one quarter, the Warriors had just 14 points. But Stephen Curry, instead of his usual barrage from deep, took the ball inside and scored 37 points on 22 shots, including a number of ridiculous floaters, pull-ups and finger-rolls. (Curry also hit a 60-odd-footer at the end of the third quarter that was waved off.) The game remained close for most of the night, but Golden State pulled away about midway through the fourth quarter, when the Spurs scored just 4 points in a crucial three-and-a-half-minute run.
The Warriors’ Saturday game against the Memphis Grizzlies was a little more dramatic, requiring a late tip-in from Draymond Green and two even later misses from Lance Stephenson, one of which was close enough to a foul that the league office was compelled to adjudicate the decision the following day. (The call was good.)
As for the matchup between San Antonio and Golden State, it’s hard to say exactly what was going on. In four games against the Warriors this season, the Spurs have been awful around the rim (50.0 percent within 10 feet; 58.7 percent for the season) and forced deep into the shot clock far more often than usual (10.5 shots per game with four seconds or less on the shot clock; 6.8 regularly), which is always a bad sign. Worse yet, the number of “wide-open” looks from three with the nearest defender six or more feet away dropped from 8.3 shots per game to 5.5.
San Antonio also shot just 36 percent on shots taken off of one or two dribbles — generally step-ins and quick drives from the perimeter or moves to the basket from the free-throw line or the high post — against 43.8 percent overall. The team is taking about four more of those one- and two-dribble shots per game, which usually isn’t a great sign, since they’re often counter-moves when the first look isn’t clean.
Then again, it’s only been four games. For San Antonio, the hope will be that Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw, neither of whom played Sunday, will make up some of the difference. The Spurs are +5.6 points per 100 possessions with Diaw on the floor against the Warriors this season and -19.3 per 100 without him.
Wednesday’s game against Memphis will be in Oakland and will come on two days’ rest for the Warriors, while the Grizzlies will be on the back-end of a back-to-back. We’ve seen these Warriors blow games with similar advantages in the past few weeks — they were 96 percent favorites to beat the Timberwolves, remember — but we’re likely to see the best the Warriors have, with one game to play to take sole ownership of one of the NBA’s most iconic records.
Jay Boice contributed research.
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