An electric crowd, the NBA's leading scorer, one of the best triple-double players, and even advanced analytics are all on the Golden State Warriors (72-9) side in their final pursuit of their 73rd win when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (42-39) at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.
The Warriors, led by NBA leading scorer and presumed MVP Stephen Curry, backcourt mate Klay Thompson and triple-double threat Draymond Green, had an astounding 93 percent chance of defeating the Grizzlies entering Tuesday, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections. Previous odds, according to FiveThirtyEight, had the Warriors at 13.4 percent on April 6 after Golden State lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Golden State held off the San Antonio Spurs, 92-86 on Sunday, setting up a date with history against the Grizzlies. The Warriors joined the Chicago Bulls as the only franchises to claim 72 victories in a single campaign, and now they have one chance to overtake the record on the final day of the regular season.
And several factors suggest Golden State will take down the record. Besides owning the highest-scoring offense in the league (114.8 points per game), with Curry averaging an NBA-best 29.9 a contest, and knocking down 41.5 percent of their three-point attempts, the Warriors have had great success against Memphis this season.
Golden State ripped the Grizzles 119-69 when the two sides first clashed this season on Nov. 2, then pulled out a 100-84 victory nine days later. In the third meeting, on Saturday, Memphis nearly pulled off an upset at home with Curry and Thompson struggling from the floor, but Green came through the with a last minute tip-in to erase a 10-point deficit and kept Golden State’s pursuit of 73 wins alive.
The Warriors will also have a fired-up home crowd on its side. Golden State is seventh in the league in attendance this season, filling the Oracle at an average of 19,596 spectators, which likely would be more if the arena were bigger. The boisterous fans have also helped contribute to Golden State’s 38-2 home mark, while Memphis is a poor 16-24 on the road.
However, Memphis’ No. 9 ranked defense has been disruptive to Curry and Thompson. Curry’s averaged 25 points and 5.3 assists, but shot only 31.3 percent from three, his third-worst mark against any team this year. And Thompson’s netted 14 points per contest against Memphis, his second-worst output against any opponent and only bettered by San Antonio’s No. 1 defense. Strangely, the Grizzlies are only No. 22 in the NBA in three-point defense.
The Grizzlies, though, face a significant uphill battle with point guard Mike Conley out of the lineup due to tendinitis in his Achilles. Conley’s return to the lineup during last season’s Western conference semifinals helped Memphis take a 2-1 series lead. He torched the Warriors for 22 points and three assists in Game 2 of the series and netted another 11 points and five assists in Game 3’s 99-89 victory.
Memphis may also have weak legs during the matchup. The Grizzlies lost on the road to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, 110-84, and playing the Warriors in the second-half of back-to-back games does not help Memphis' chances. Grizzlies big man Zach Randolph led the team with 14 points.
Betting Line: Golden State by 18.5 points
Over/Under: 212.5 points
Prediction: Golden State over Memphis, 104-92