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The NBA is rapidly wrapping up a season that has been filled with all sorts of intriguing records. Not all of them are good, as the futility of the Philadelphia 76ers put them in serious contention for the worst record in NBA history. They managed to avoid that by winning their 10th game, allowing them to barely surpass the fewest wins by any team in an NBA season, set by the same 76ers franchise in 1972-73. Still, this edition of the 76ers will still finish with one of the worst records that the league has ever seen. However, there are far more inspiring records that have been in the spotlight throughout this season. For quite a while this season, it looked like there was the distinct possibility of not just one, but two NBA teams being good enough to reach the rare 70-win threshold.
The Golden State Warriors, of course, seemed to be cruising all season long towards that important mark, while the San Antonio Spurs were not all that far behind. Still, the Spurs remained far enough behind that few seemed to really pay them much mind. Yet, rather amazingly, the Spurs held out with a strong enough record that they had a real shot at reaching a 70-win regular season themselves heading into their final five games, and their hopes remained alive when they went to Oakland to face the Warriors. For whatever the reason, those who make the schedules decided that these two teams–most likely the two best teams in the NBA–would meet numerous times in the last few weeks of a long season. This is the second of three meetings between these two teams in a matter of just a few weeks. They will be meeting again this coming weekend in San Antonio.
The Warriors hosted the Spurs on Thursday, April 7, and they took care of business, enjoying a convincing 112-101 win that finally allowed them to reach the very rare 70-win threshold. In the process, they also eliminated any chance of the Spurs achieving that same 70-win season as well. Yet, it seems strange that relatively few people are talking about what was once seen as a monumental achievement. At some point, before the Chicago Bulls managed to win their 70th regular season game in the spring of 1996, the mark was thought to be virtually impossible. As an illustration of how rare of an achievement that is, consider that since the NBA started in 1946–70 years ago–the Warriors managed to become only the second team in the history of the league to reach that level of regular season success.
Yet, on some levels, even with such incredible success, Golden State has not garnered the kind of accolades that such a distinction would normally merit. Despite how great of an achievement that is, everyone seems to feel that they absolutely need to win 73 games, which would allow them to pass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls as the winningest team of all time. As such, the team finally earning their 70th win on Thursday night still managed to remain largely in the shadows of the one achievement this team has not yet managed. Almost everyone seems to feel that these Warriors would need to surpass the regular season mark set by the Chicago Bulls, in order to warrant any serious discussion of this Golden State team ranking as the greatest team ever. Even if they do manage to reach 73 wins, and they would need to win out in the rest of their games to do so, a lot of people suggest it is a different era favoring offenses, and that these Warriors have thrived under such circumstances. Those people argue that the Bulls were far and away the better, more complete team and Golden State pales by comparison. Scottie Pippen even suggested that his ’95-96 Bulls would have swept these Warriors. Charles Barkley also suggested that these Warriors would have gotten whipped by those Bulls.
Even if the Warriors do get there and win 73 games to set the new mark–and the struggles that this team has gone through in recent weeks attests to the fact that it will not be easy–the Warriors would need to win all of their remaining three games. One of those, as already mentioned, will be against the Spurs and it will be in San Antonio. That is particularly significant because, as great as Golden State has been this season, there is one thing that the Spurs have been better at. As this NBA season wraps up, the Spurs have an important record of their own that they are pursing. Until about a week ago, the Warriors were flirting with the best home regular season record in NBA history, as they were undefeated at home after their first 36 games. However, that streak was dashed when they lost at home to the Celtics, and more recently, lost again at home to the Timberwolves.
That leaves the Spurs–the same team that was enjoying a record pace of winning themselves, although it is clearly overshadowed by Golden State’s record pace–as the only team remaining with an undefeated home record. In fact, the Spurs managed to pass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls in that regard. Those Bulls had set the mark for the deepest into a season that any team has remained undefeated at home, starting off 37-0 at home, although they lost two home games right down the stretch, just like the Warriors have now done. By comparison, San Antonio presently is a stellar 39-0 and have established the new longest undefeated start at home. They will now have to face the Warriors at home this weekend–no small test there–before wrapping up at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, April 12. The Spurs would need to win at least one more home game to tie the all-time best record for a home team, established by the 1985-86 Boston Celtics, who managed to go 40-1 at home on the season. If the Spurs win both games, they will have surpassed that and set a mark that can never fully be broken, only tied, as they will then become the only team in NBA history to complete an undefeated season at home.
Therefore, there are actually two teams, not just one, still aiming for important historical records this season. Yet, somehow, they both remain in the shadows on some level, each for their own reasons. For the Warriors, they seem to be competing against the Chicago Bulls of two decades ago. Meanwhile, for the Spurs, their incredible success has been almost completely overshadowed by the amazing year the Golden State Warriors have enjoyed. However, the Spurs have a chance to achieve an important record that the Warriors themselves failed to achieve. This itself would be quite intriguing, but the fact that the Spurs will have to do it against the Warriors themselves magnifies the importance of the showdown that these two teams will have on Sunday, April 10, when they square off yet again.
Not surprisingly, as the NBA now wraps up a season that will likely be remembered as one that saw important records established or at least equaled, the Warriors and Spurs have emerged as the two clear favorites heading into the NBA playoffs. Most people expect them to meet in the Western Conference Finals, and presuming they do, the winner will be the clear favorite to garner another NBA title. The Spurs won it two seasons ago while the Warriors were the defending champions, so each team obviously has plenty of experience to help carry them through, having done it before. No matter what happens, these two teams, in pursuing historic records, have helped to make this season very interesting and generated considerable fan interest in the process.
Opinion by Charles Bordeau
Edited by Leigh Haugh
CBS Sports: Warriors become second team in NBA history to win 70 games
ESPN: Scottie Pippen says 1995-96 Bulls would sweep Warriors
NBA: The chase for 73 wins: A game-by-game look at how the Warriors are keeping up with the record-setting Chicago Bulls of 1995-96
Sports Illustrated: Spurs beat Pelicans, set NBA record with 38–0 home start
Image Courtesy of Keith Allison’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License