It was a chilly 51 degree night in Milwaukee, WI on the night of December 12th, 2015. The Golden State Warriors had just come off a double-overtime win against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden the night before. They were tired but ready to extend their unbeaten record start to 25 games but the inevitable happened. The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Warriors 108-95. Their pristine, untarnished 24-0 record now had a “1” in the loss column. It was the greatest start in NBA history and the question brewed, would the Warriors top the ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls 72-10 season? At 24-1 the analysts and experts began the conversation.
Fast forward 3 and a half months to April and the Warriors record stood at an impressive 68-7 with seven games remaining. Of the six other losses many believed the loss to the Spurs was the only justified one, the only team considered to be a championship threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference. The Warriors five opponents in the remaining seven games were handled prior but the previous Celtics game went to double-overtime, the Trail Blazers had already beaten them once, the Minnesota Timberwolves kept the previous two games close and two games against a dangerous Memphis Grizzlies team. The last two games? The San Antonio Spurs, one of which was going to be at San Antonio’s homecourt, a venue the Warriors hadn’t won at since 1997.
April 1, 2015, the Warriors first of five home games in their final stretch. With bitter taste in-mouth, the Celtics were holding onto a 107-106 lead, when Boston point guard Isaiah Thomas finished a layup to push their lead to 109-106 with 0:08 remaining. Reigning and expected repeat MVP Stephen Curry came down court with ball in hand and missed a three-pointer with 0:05 seconds left. Forward Harrison Barnes inhaled an offensive rebound put up a three-pointer of his own but also missed. The Celtics handed the Warriors their first home loss of the season and first home loss in 54 games dating back to last season. The Dubs chances to break the Bulls 72-win season was fading.
After handling the Trail Blazers the Warriors went up against the Timberwolves for the third time this season. This time expected Rookie of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns, and last years Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, forced overtime and was able to hand the Warriors their ninth loss. With four games left, one of which was in a venue the Warriors franchise hadn’t been able to win in for nearly two decades, the overthinking and doubtful analysts came out in full-force. The Spurs came to Oracle and the Warriors handled them comfortably and the Warriors escaped from the Grizzlies home court with a 100-99 win. The real test was April 10th in San Antonio but to everyone’s surprise and the Warriors and Warriors fans delight the Dubs edged the Spurs in their home court for the first time since 1997. Their final game at home for a record 73rd win was against the Grizzlies and the Warriors cruised to a 125-104 victory.
With their 73-9 record the Warriors headed to the playoffs with high expectations. Nothing less than the Larry O’Brian trophy would suffice after a historic season. When it comes down to it, the best regular season ever won’t matter if the asterix along side it is, “But they didn’t win the championship.” The Dubs know that too so they’ve moved on from the regular season and are zoned in on having another parade a Lake Merritt this June with a second ring in as many years.
Photo courtesy of @WARRIORS