Coming off of a championship season a year ago, the Golden State Warriors are still hungry for more. In the past, defending champions have either fallen off of the map or their opponents have figured ways to shut down those teams and eventually dethrone them.
That hasn’t been the case for these 2015-2016 Warriors, who are chasing NBA history and are looking to a championship repeat for the first time in franchise history. The question still stands though: “Will the Warriors do it?”
This juggernaut has what it takes to be able to pull off a “double whammy”, which would break the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ all-time best 72-10 record and win the championship for a second consecutive year come June.
The Warriors are being lead by the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, who is having one heck of a season. Their bench has the ability to ignite a spark when on the floor that allows the starters to get additional rest in the fourth quarters. This has proven to be a huge benefit to the team’s success.
At the All-Star break with a record of 48-4, the Warriors had put themselves in perfect position to break the 72-10 Bulls record that seemed like a dream to most teams in the past two decades. This team isn’t shy when asked about their goal to break the record by reporters, either.
Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have all acknowledged that they want to break the Bulls mark. That is the sign of a team that is motivated and determined to try and become the greatest team in NBA history.
In order to get to that 73-9 milestone, the Warriors will have to go 5-2 the rest of the regular season. To many fans of the NBA, it looks like a sure thing, but nothing is guaranteed in the NBA. In fact, the Warriors play the San Antonio Spurs on Apr. 7, which would be the game where they would tie the Bulls’ 72 wins, should they pull out a win.
In my opinion, the Warriors will suffer 2 more losses, both to a top tier team. They have two more matchups against the 63-12 San Antonio Spurs, one in Oracle Arena and one on the road. These will not be an easy games for Golden State as the Spurs are undefeated at home. I see the Warriors falling short in both upcoming matchups against the Spurs if they rest their top players.
The Warriors are hitting on all cylinders this season, especially in their Oracle Arena. They have gone an unblemished 36-0 so far this season in the Oracle Arena, averaging 115 points per game. The only negative to this is that they allow their opponents 104 points per game. Usually Golden State’s lead is too large going into the final quarter and then they take their foot off the gas and give their starters some rest for the whole fourth quarter. If they plan on breaking this record, the starters might have to contribute in some 4th quarters to secure wins down the stretch.
As stellar as the Warriors have been, the modification of the hand-checking rule in the 2004-2005 season has worked to the team’s advantage in a way that not a ton of people realize or even to mention. Hand checking is when the defense had the license to be all up in the offense’s face, forcing the shooter to take a bad percentage shot or make an ill-advised pass that would work towards the defense’s advantage. This is a bonus for gifted shooters Stephen Curry and his backcourt partner Klay Thompson that has allowed them to rival shooting percentages equal to those of the 1996 Bulls. The year the Bulls set the highest win record, the team shot 49 percent from the field, while the 2015-2016 Warriors have shot 48.6 percent through the majority of the regular season.
The Warriors have a slightly better three point percentage at 41.5 percent compared to 39 percent for Jordan’s 1995-1996 Bulls squad. When analyzing specific statistics, both teams are practically mirror images of one another.
In the scoring department, Stephen Curry is averaging 30 points per game, just four tenths lower than Michael Jordan’s 30.4 points per game for the Bulls. When it comes to getting assists, not one player on either team comes close to Warriors forward Draymond Green, averaging 7.4 assists per game this season.
Bulls forward Dennis Rodman ate the glass on a nightly basis, tallying an average of 14 rebounds per game for the 1995-96 Bulls. Warriors forward Draymond Green isn’t afraid to play “bully ball” either, averaging a team best 9.6 rebounds per game.
By the looks of these stats on paper, it’s understandable that the Warriors could become the best team in league history, but will the players be able to maintain their consistency and level of efficient play when it is time to break the record?
The Warriors have been healthy up to this moment, but injuries have a tendency to occur at any given time to any given team. But note that Curry has not one, but two troublesome ankles. He had surgery on his right ankle in May 2011, but he re-injured it during the 2011-2012 campaign. The Warriors know that Curry is the focal point of their offense and can’t afford to lose him before they break the record as well as before they head into the playoffs.
So, while having the winners record for the last 20 years is in their grasp and would be awesome bragging rights, it will be important for the Warriors to not get too caught in breaking the Bulls’ record if it means sacrificing anyone’s health for the upcoming playoffs. I think in the long run, going for back to back championships would be better for the franchise long term.