It doesn’t look like the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls will be popping their champagne corks.
The Golden State Warriors are poised to break the Bulls’ regular-season win record. At 67-7, 73 wins is well within reach. The perception is that this Warriors team might be unbeatable. At home, that cannot be disproven, because they have yet to lose at Oracle Arena. But, no, they are not invincible.
Golden State is 36-0 at home this season. It went 39-2 last year. The last team to win at Oracle is the Cleveland Cavaliers, in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. But don’t hand the Warriors the rings just yet.
This is not to say the Warriors aren’t still more likely than not to repeat as NBA champions. But the perception that it will be a cake-walk is foolish. For one thing, they will likely have to go through a very formidable nemesis in the San Antonio Spurs, a team they were able to avoid during last year’s title run.
While the Warriors will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, they will still have to win in San Antonio, a place where they have lost 33 straight regular-season contests and are 1-35 overall during that stretch. San Antonio has won five championships since 1999, and is not going to back down from any foe. It held Golden State to a season-low 79 points in a March 19 victory at AT&T Center.
Sure, Stephen Curry is playing at another level. He is surrounded by pseudo-stars like Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. And yet the Warriors’ high-flying style also leaves them prone to giving up a lot of points. While they lead the NBA with 115.3 points per game, they are giving up 104.2 points a game, which ranks 20th. The Spurs have the league’s best scoring defense, at just 92.6 points per contest.
Everyone will be gunning for the Warriors once the playoffs start. The Spurs will not be the only team that could give Golden State a run for its money. The Oklahoma City Thunder, though 0-3 against the Warriors in 2015-16, have won eight of 10 and are 52-23 on the year. The Los Angeles Clippers (46-27) are hitting their stride, as well. And in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be salivating over a potential rematch. Last year, even without Kyrie Irving, the Cavs held a 2-1 series lead before the Warriors rallied to win in six games.
Though it’s hard to imagine now, and even given the NBA’s top-heavy history, the Warriors are by no means a lock to repeat. Their chances are as good as anyone’s. But they aren’t unbeatable.