What is 73-9 without a few close calls? You can’t make history without a little luck. While most people will say the Golden State Warriors historic record of 73-9 doesn’t mean anything without the ring, I disagree. They have plenty to be proud of by accomplishing this feat, especially when you look back at the season and the close calls that could’ve cost them any chance at breaking the 95-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72-10. Here are five games that were in the balance and could have thwarted the Warriors record setting season.
12/11/15: the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics (13-9) in a hard fought double overtime game in “Beantown” without two starters in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
The Celtics held a 5-point lead, 96-101, with 2:06 remaining in the 4th quarter. Steph Curry would go on to score 5 points on two free throws and a 3-pointer, along with a signature mid-range jumper from Shaun Livingston to put the Warriors up 103-101. The Celtics tied it up on an Isaiah Thomas layup sending the game into its first overtime. Both teams scored 7 points in the first OT to send it to a 2nd overtime where Golden State pulled away. Curry finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists despite shooting 9-27 and having 8 turnovers. Draymond Green finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 block shots, 5 steals becoming only the third player in NBA history to surpass 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals in a game. The Victory extended their record setting win streak to 24 games.
1/2/16: The Denver Nuggets (12-21) were down 77-90 to begin the 4th quarter and trailed by as many as 28 points (45-63; 2nd quarter) in the game with Steph Curry sitting out to nurse a left shin injury that had been bothering him for quite a while. Denver went on a 20-10 run to cut the lead to 3 (100-97) with 3:21 remaining in regulation. Will Barton made a short jumper with one second on the clock in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 102 and send it to overtime. In the extra session the Nuggets took their first lead of the night 104-102 on a pair of Danilo Gallinari free throws with 4:11 left in overtime. The Warriors closed the game out on a 9-4 run to move to 31-2 on the season. Draymond Green led all scorers with 29 points and added 17 rebounds and 14 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.
1/30/16: The Warriors next close call was a huge surprise as they were pushed by the 7-40 Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. The 42-4 Warriors had a 19-point lead (91-72) to start the 4th quarter, but the young Sixers stormed all the way back outscoring Golden State 33 to 17 to tie the score at 105. Harrison Barnes made a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Philadelphia bench with .2 seconds remaining to seal the 108-105 victory and the 43rd on the season for GSW. Bay Area fans are wishing right now they had THAT clutch version of Barnes in any of the last three games of the 2016 NBA Finals, maybe they’d have another Larry O’Brien Trophy to go with this record.
2/27/16: Who can forget the Instant Classic at the Oklahoma City Thunder? This was the second meeting of the season between the two Western Conference powers. The 42-17 Thunder had the game all but wrapped up ready to hand the Warriors their sixth loss of the season and end their six game win streak. OKC had a 4-point lead with 14 seconds left in the game. But after a Klay Thompson jumper that put the score at 101-103, the Thunder inbounded the ball to Kevin Durant with 11 seconds remaining, all he had to do was hold it and get fouled then make two free throws, instead he threw the ball away and on the subsequent Warriors possession fouled Andre Iguodala while he was shooting with no time remaining. Iguodala went on to make both free throws to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Durant fouled out with 4:13 remaining and the Thunder had a 5-point lead 108-103. Golden State never led in OT until Steph Curry hit the shot heard round the world, a 37 footer with less than a second remaining. Warriors win game number 53, 121-118.
3/30/16: The Utah Jazz were 37-37 coming into the matchup with the Warriors, hoping to hold on to the eight spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. After a close 1st half that saw Golden State take a 42-40 lead into the locker room, the Young Jazz took control of the game in the 3rd and early in the 4th quarter leading by as many as 8 points before the defending World Champions made their move to tie the game at 85 with 2:17 remaining in regulation on a Draymond Green layup. Utah continued to stay in front by no more than 3, when Klay Thompson made a 3-pointer with a little over 15 seconds left in the 4th to tie the game at 89. The Champs took back control in overtime and won their 68th out of 75 games 103-96.
4/9/16: The Warriors went into Memphis to face a wounded Grizzlies team that wasn’t playing for much since their playoff position was already solidified. Memphis was already without staring point guard Mike Conley Junior, and All-Star center Marc Gasol. Golden State was down by as many as 10 points in the 4th quarter and didn’t gain the lead until 1:39 remaining on a Harrison Barnes 3-pointer that put them up 98-97. Yet still, they had to fight off Memphis as there were two more lead changes in the final 1:13 before the Warriors sealed their 71st win 100-99.
As you can see if one or two of these games goes the other way, the Warriors would either be tied with the 95-96 Bulls at 72-10 or not even having a shared piece of history. It proves how relevant the regular season is as the San Antonio Spurs were nipping at their heels for the number one overall seed with their own 67-15 record. How many close calls will or won’t there be now that they’ve added Kevin Durant? Expectations with this super team are going to be higher than 73-9.