The Golden State Warriors are off to an incredible start to the 2015-2016 season, winning their first 13 games. As the defending NBA champs continue to dominate each opponent, the possibility of having an historic season is looking more and more likely.
The 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls set an NBA record with 72 wins. No other team in league history has even won 70 games, and the idea of Golden State doing so is thought to be far-fetched by many. But the Warriors are proving to be one of the best NBA teams in recent memory, and it’s time to seriously consider the possibility that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Co. could have some company at the end of the regular season.
En route to winning the title last season, Golden State went 67-15. While the Warriors are certain to slow down somewhat this year, it’s clear that they are even better this season. Why can’t they win three more games?
Best start to season by a defending NBA champ: 1957-58 Celtics 14-0 2015-16 Warriors 13-0 pic.twitter.com/YCK1nQE50j
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) November 20, 2015
Golden State’s toughest test of the season came on Thursday night when they visited the Los Angeles Clippers. But a 23-point deficit wasn’t enough to give the Warriors their first loss, as 40 points from reigning MVP Stephen Curry gave the Warriors a 124-117 victory.
It was the second time the Warriors have beaten the Clippers this season, giving them nine wins over teams that made the playoffs last season. But it isn’t just how many wins the Warriors have or whom they’ve beaten that’s been so impressive. Most of Golden State’s wins have been in absolutely dominant fashion.
The Warriors’ four-point win over the Clippers earlier this season was their smallest margin of victory. They’ve beaten eight teams by double-digits, and their average margin of victory is 14.7 points.
Because they are so good on both sides of the ball, the Warriors can survive an offensive drought or defensive struggles more so than any team in NBA history. Scoring 111.7 points per every 100 possessions, Golden State is easily the best offensive team in the league. They rank seventh in defensive efficiency, allowing 96.7 points per every 100 possessions, and that could improve, considering they were the best defensive team a season ago.
It’s hard to imagine Curry continuing this level of play for 82 games, but if he comes close to playing this well for the entire season, it will be hard for Golden State to lose more than 12 times. Scoring 34.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting from the field and 45.3 percent shooting from three-point range, Curry is in the midst of a stretch that has been matched by almost no player in NBA history.
After struggling with ankle injuries at the start of his career, Curry is now a beacon of health, having played at least 78 games in each of the last three seasons. The Warriors avoided any major injuries last season, and if they continue to blow out teams and limit their players’ minutes, there’s little reason to believe Golden State can’t remain healthy for a second straight year.
Steph Curry & Michael Jordan share another bit of NBA history in the last 30 seasons. pic.twitter.com/6GkgmXWCwZ
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 20, 2015
Head coach Steve Kerr suffered the most serious injury of anyone on the team. Golden State has gone 13-0 without the runner-up for the 2014-2015 Coach of the Year. Luke Walton has led the team as Kerr recovers from back surgery, and the team will only benefit from Kerr’s eventual return.
History certainly isn’t on Golden State’s side. The last two teams that started the year at 13-0 didn’t even come close to winning 70 games. The 2002-2003 Dallas Mavericks finished at 60-22 after a 13-0 start, and the 1993-1994 Houston Rockets ended up losing 24 of their final 67 games.
Even if Curry doesn’t miss a game, one injury to another key player could spell trouble for the Warriors. In the one game that Klay Thompson missed this season, Golden State needed overtime to beat the Brooklyn Nets, who might not win more than 20 games this season.
No team has won more than 15 consecutive games to start a season, and Golden State’s first loss might be coming any day now. After winning their first 10 games by an average of 17.1 points, the Warriors have had three close calls in a row. Sandwiched in between an overtime win over the Nets and Thursday’s incredible comeback victory, Golden State beat the Toronto Raptors by five points in a contest that was decided in the final minute.
It won’t be easy, but there’s no question that the pieces are there to make a run at 70 wins. One year ago, the Warriors won 11 of their first 13 games, and finished just three wins shy of getting to the historic mark.