44–4: East Coast Swing
Sunday night’s win in New York brings the Warriors to 44–4. They remain tied with the 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers for the best start ever to an NBA season. That is true despite nearly letting one slip away on Saturday against a very different edition of the Sixers. Golden State’s record through 48 games is one game better than the 1995–96 Bulls that finished 72–10. For today’s post, I’ve animated Golden State’s march towards history. You can find the static image included at the end of this article.
The Dubs need three wins to reach surpass those 1966–67 Sixers by going 47–4. The Warriors will attempt to reach that milestone with a remarkable amount of rest moving forward after ending a back-to-back tonight. Their next game is Wednesday at Washington to conclude an East Coast trip. After flying home, they won’t open a two game homestand until hosting Oklahoma City in Primetime Saturday night. Then, they wait until Tuesday to try and set the record against Houston in Oracle Arena.
Saturday’s game is the first time Golden State will face the Thunder and the first of three games this month the two teams will play. As has been noted elsewhere (though I struggled to find many links where it has been noted, perhaps it’s more been discussed on podcasts and broadcasts), the schedule has been remarkably backloaded for the top Western Conference teams this year. The Warriors and Spurs both have six games remaining against the other top teams (Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Cavaliers) this season, as both have completed their season series against Cleveland. Oklahoma City has seven games remaining as they face the Cavaliers on February 21st in addition to the games shown in the table below.
The table shows some clear oddities in the way these marquee matchups are distributed over the course of the season. Most notably, the Warriors and Spurs have a near home-and-home on Thursday April 7th and Sunday April 10th, presumably arranged for television ratings. Though each has a game in between, the Spurs play in Denver on Friday before heading home for Sunday. Golden State plays in Memphis on Saturday night making Sunday’s game a back-to-back for the Warriors. Fortunately Sunday’s game is at 7 PM Eastern. Remarkably, Sunday’s game is currently scheduled for NBA TV, not ESPN or TNT as I had initially assumed incorrectly. It will certainly be interesting to see whether the teams will be in position to rest their stars if the playoff matchups have been decided for them at that point. It’s also a potential schedule loss for the Warriors, though they may be hyper-focused if 72 or 73 wins is still within reach.
Meanwhile, the Spurs are still 39–8 and on track for one of the best regular season records in history despite the loss on Saturday night to Cleveland. With the Warriors facing the Thunder three times before San Antonio confronts another of the upper echelon teams, the Spurs may close the gap at least temporarily in the standings. Of course, that will be harder if Tim Duncan continues to miss time as he will again on Monday against Orlando. Nevertheless, we’re still on track for the best regular season for a pair of teams in the NBA in history by quite a margin.
As promised, here’s the chart above as a static image if you prefer that format.