The Golden State Warriors (72-9) have their gaze set on the NBA’s single-season record of 73 wins and must overtake the Memphis Grizzlies (42-38) to own arguably the league's most prestigious regular-season milestone. The two teams met on Saturday, with Golden State edging Memphis, 100-99, to keep their record-hopes alive.
Following Sunday night’s thrilling 92-86 road victory over the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors will try to surpass the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in front of what’s sure to be a raucous Oracle Arena crowd Wednesday night.
The Warriors, highlighted by Stephen Curry’s 26-point second-half explosion against the Spurs' top-ranked defense, have now pulled level with Chicago’s record to set up one of the most intriguing regular-season games in NBA history.
At this point of their historic season, the Bulls were only padding their record while the Warriors have only one shot to rewrite the books. Despite the record chase, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who played on the Bulls' record team, has expressed concerns about fatigue before the postseason.
Having already secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and the top seed in the Western Conference, Kerr may be hesitant to overwork his players with the playoffs beginning at the end of the week.
Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have mostly stayed healthy this year and the Warriors want to overtake Michael Jordan’s renowned Bulls squad. Green said he spoke to Jordan, now owner of the Charlotte Hornets, during the All-Star break and received some surprisingly encouraging words from one of the game’s most notorious competitors.
"Mike told me at All-Star, 'Go win the record. Go get the record. If y'all don't win this record, I'm going to be hot and I'm blaming you,” Green told ESPN’s Ethan Strauss.
A Warriors win on Wednesday might be a tough task. Memphis has secured a playoff berth, but a victory by the Grizzlies ensures not facing the Warriors in the first found. Currently seeded No. 6 in the West, the Grizzlies are just one game ahead of the No. 7 Dallas Mavericks and own a two-game lead on the No. 8 Utah Jazz. There's an outside chance Memphis can get the No. 5 seed with two wins and a loss by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Memphis will face the Warriors for the second time in four days, and again on the tail-end of back-to-back games. The Grizzlies visit Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Tuesday, then swing up the West coast to meet Golden State. On the flip side, the Warriors will have three days to rest and prepare.
Even though Memphis nearly denied Golden State a chance at 72 wins, the squad has experienced a major slide late in the regular season. Dave Joreger's squad has lost seven of their eight games and have a 5-13 record since March 5. The Grizzlies are dealing with an Achilles injury to top point guard Mike Conley Jr., who is not expected to return for the playoffs.
Still, the Grizzlies were competitive against the Warrriors on Saturday. Green’s tip-in with less than a minute remaining gave the Warriors a 100-99 victory while Curry and Thompson had a rare off night. It’s the only one-point game of Golden State’s season, and Memphis kept the contest close despite shooting only 38.5 percent from the floor thanks to forward Matt Barnes 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Grizzlies big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph can create mismatches for Golden State’s interior defense. But Memphis will need to overcome their road woes, having lost of eight of their last nine games away from FedEX Forum.
Prediction: Golden State over Memphis, 104-92