Here are the first points scored in Wednesday night’s game between the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz:
And here are the last in regulation, when Golden State needed a last-second three to force overtime:
The Warriors won easily in the extra period, mainly behind Draymond Green’s burly defending. Of course they did. Golden State has outscored opponents by +41 per 48 minutes in seven OT periods this season. At 68-7, the team is tied for the fourth-most wins ever in an NBA season — with seven games to play.
|WINS||EXACTLY THIS MANY WINS||AT LEAST THIS MANY WINS|
Using our CARM-Elo predictions, we now give the Warriors an 85.4 percent chance of breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins and a 97 percent chance of at least tying it. Our colleagues at ESPN Stats & Info, using a model based on their Basketball Power Index, put the chances of 73 or more wins at 80 percent (one of the key differences is that the Spurs have overtaken the Warriors in BPI and play Golden State twice more this season).
The Jazz game might have been the toughest left on the schedule for the Warriors. Golden State was on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road, and playing a defense that is in the top 10 in efficiency for the season but is much more formidable when Rudy Gobert is in the lineup (he’s played in just 55 games this season). The relative difficulty of the Utah game — Golden State was “only” a 61 percent favorite according to CARM-Elo — is one reason the Warriors’ odds of winning 73 or more leapt from 66 percent two games ago to more than 85 percent now. Of the team’s remaining seven games, five are at home, and only one comes as the second leg of a back-to-back.
Golden State’s next game is Friday, against the Celtics, and the Warriors are an 89.2 percent favorite, according to CARM-Elo. That’s followed by home games against the Blazers (90.1 percent), Timberwolves (95.6 percent) and Spurs (65.7 percent).
|April 1||vs. BOS||89.2%|
|April 3||vs. POR||90.1|
|April 5||vs. MIN||95.6|
|April 7||vs. SA||65.7|
|April 9||@ MEM||82.7|
|April 10||@ SA||32.6|
|April 13||vs. MEM||93.4|
The Spurs game is where things get muddy. I wrote a few days back about why prediction models tend to have trouble with end-of-season scenarios, but as the Warriors keep on winning, we can find some clarity. The Warriors and Spurs both won Wednesday night, leaving San Antonio five back in the loss column with seven to play for Golden State. That functionally locks up the 1-seed for the Warriors and leaves little reason for Gregg Popovich to play his starters in both games against Golden State.
Complicating matters, the Spurs, like the Warriors, are undefeated at home. With a day of rest before and after the April 10 game against the Warriors, with Golden State on the second night of a back-to-back, San Antonio might just decide to play ball — CARM-Elo gives the Warriors just a 32.6 percent chance of winning if that happens. Then again, Popovich might run Kyle Anderson at the point for 40 minutes. It’s hard to tell with the Spurs.
In a way, though, all you need to know about the Warriors’ late-season run can be found in those two plays up above. They’re still stylish as all hell, and they still deliver when it matters. It’s been a long season, and fatigue comes for every team this time of year, but if the quick-change shift to championship-level defense in the final four minutes or so of regulation and OT Wednesday night is anything to go by, there’s plenty left in the tank.
Jay Boice contributed research.