At a time in the season when NBA teams that have locked up playoff berths are resting their players, the Golden State Warriors are keeping the pedal to the metal as they chase the single-season win record.
Which prompts the question: Will the Warriors be too exhausted to defend their NBA title, the main goal of every team? And if they fail to set a new record, will the disappointment cause the team to lose focus when the playoffs begin?
Golden State enters today’s game against the Portland Trailblazers needing to win five of its six remaining games to break the single-season record of 72 wins set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors made the task more difficult by losing their eighth game of the season Friday night to Boston, breaking their home win streak of 54 games.
Four of the team’s remaining games include home-and-away dates against two tough teams, San Antonio (which has the second best record in the league) and Memphis. But neither team can improve its playoff position by beating the Warriors, and there are reports that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will rest his star players in at least one of those games.
The Warriors have some injured players they hope will mend in time for the playoffs, and starters who have played heavy minutes, like Steph Curry, could probably use some rest. But the players have made it clear they want the record, and coach Steve Kerr would probably face a player mutiny if he started resting players now.
As Kerr points out, there are no back-to-back games in the playoffs, and teams have sufficient time to rest. Chicago also won the championship the season it set the win record; Kerr played on that team, so he knows what it takes to do both.
But the Warriors will probably have to beat San Antonio to make it to the finals, and you can bet Popovich will have the Spurs well rested and primed for the series. The single-season win record won’t mean as much if the Warriors can’t defend their title.
WE’RE NO. 30: At the other end of the spectrum, Philadelphia (9-68) has to win one of its last five games to avoid tying for the worst record in a season. That’s going to be difficult: The Sixers have lost their last 12 games.