The Golden State Warriors are now slight favorites to reach 73 wins after Sunday’s blowout win over the Portland Trail Blazers, but there is some concern that the race for history could be taking a toll on the Western Conference’s top team.
The Warriors reached 69 wins with Sunday’s win, rebounding from a rare home loss on Friday to defeat the Trail Blazers 136-111. Going into the game, ESPN had calculated the Warriors odds of reaching an NBA record 73 wins at 50 percent, which ticked up even more after Sunday’s win. The Warriors now need four wins in their last five games to beat the mark set by the 1996 Chicago Bulls.
But the race could be hurting the team ahead of the NBA Playoffs. After Friday’s loss to the Boston Celtics — the first time the Warriors lost at home in 54 games — head coach Steve Kerr said he believes the frantic race to 73 wins and all the media attention that surrounds it could be affecting the team.
“I think they want the [wins] record,” Kerr said (via ESPN). “But I think what they probably realize is maybe all the talk and all the focus on the record has gotten us away from the process of who we are.”
Kerr added that the pressure of reaching 73 wins is “taking a toll” on the players and interfered with their normal process. He compared the situation to the late-season struggles of his 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, the record-bearer with 72 regular season wins.
“In fact, if you look back at that season, we lost two home games in the last week, 10 days of the season, both by a basket or one point,” Kerr said. “We were, I think, I want to say 37-0 or something that season at home, and we lost two of our last four. When we did break the record, in Milwaukee, I still remember it. It was a horrendous basketball game. We won like 85-80 or something. So yeah, it was like the same kind of thing. Constant scrutiny, little slippage in our execution, eking out wins, so it does feel the same way.”
The race for 73 wins is attracting plenty of outside attention to the Golden State Warriors as well. This week, Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen weighed in on the comparisons to the 1995-96 Bulls, saying he believes his NBA champion squad was much better.
When asked which team would win in a seven-game series, Pippen wouldn’t even give the Warriors win.
“Bulls in four [games],” Pippen said (via ESPN).
“I don’t think we’d take a night off,” he added.
Pippen added that the offensive firepower of the Warriors would be blunted against the defensively minded Bulls team.
“I think that my size and length would bother [Curry] a little bit,” said Pippen, predicting that he would keep Curry to under 20 points a game.
Kerr, who was a key part of that Chicago Bulls team, shied away from making a prediction and pointed out that today’s game is much different than it was in 1995-96.
“For example, if you actually put the teams in a hypothetical game, my guess is the Bulls would be called for a million hand-check fouls, and we would be called for a million illegal defenses when we overloaded the strong side,” Kerr said. “So the game would take, like, six hours because the refs would be calling stuff all game. It’s kind of hard to get past that. Now, they wouldn’t call traveling in either era.”
The Golden State Warriors will have a chance to continue their quest for 73 wins on Tuesday when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
[Picture by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]