The Golden State Warriors are accustomed to making history. Last June, they won the franchise’s first NBA title in 40 seasons. Then, the 2015-16 version of the team broke the NBA record for wins to start a season with a 16-0 start. Now, with a winning streak of 26 regular season games (they won their final four games last season and have won their first 22 this season), Golden State is chasing yet another illustrious record that would elevate their status as one of the best teams in the history of the league.
Back in the ’70s, the Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight regular season contests during the 1971-72 season, led by players including Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain (Los Angeles also won the championship that season). Many have challenged the Lakers’ mark since then. The 2007-08 Rockets got to 22 straight wins. More recently, the Miami Heat won 27 straight back in 2013 behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (the second-longest streak in league history).
Still, for more than 40 years of NBA basketball, L.A.’s record has stood. Within the next three weeks, that 33-game mark may fall. Here’s why the undefeated Warriors will seize control of that impressive record.
Eight games stand between the Warriors and 34 consecutive regular-season wins. With games against some of the top teams in the league and a target on their back, this may be their most difficult stretch of the season. Their next game on Tuesday might be Golden State’s first loss of the season, as they take on a better-than-ever Paul George and the Indiana Pacers on the road. After missing most of last season while recovering from a broken leg, George has helped make the Pacers a relevant player in the Eastern Conference once again, as they hold a 12-7 record through the season’s first month and change.
Next on the Warriors’ schedule are games against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the final two games of their current seven-game road trip. Then, Golden State will return home for five games, starting with matchups against the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, and Utah Jazz. The big contest, though, occurs on Christmas Day in the form of an NBA Finals rematch. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to play against the Warriors, looking for revenge after last season’s loss in the Finals.
Interestingly enough, if the Warriors keep winning, this game will tie the team for the win-streak record (it’s almost like the schedule maker’s planned this). James would love nothing more than to beat the team that dealt him yet another NBA Finals defeat. If they survive the game against the Cavs, Golden State will need just one more win to reach 30-0 on the season and break the record. That game will be against the Sacramento Kings three days after Christmas in Oakland.
Watching Golden State play night in and night out, it’s hard to tell that they just won an NBA title six months ago. They play with fire, they play with passion, and they play like they’ve never been here before. It’s almost like watching a collegiate team, and these characteristics are an integral part of their unprecedented success.
It’s easy to become satisfied after you achieve something as big as a championship. All the effort that goes into accomplishing a long-term goal is exhausting and after you’ve reached that goal, the natural response is to step back and enjoy what you have done. That’s what happens (often times) in professional sports after teams win a championship. The great ones, however, always strive for something more, which is exactly what these Warriors are doing this season.
The prime example is Stephen Curry, last season’s league MVP, who elevated himself into the conversation of the world’s best player. For most, that accomplishment along with a championship ring would be the pinnacle. Instead, Curry worked on his game during the offseason and the results show. He already has 7 games of 40+ points (including one 50-point performance) and leads the league in scoring at 32.6 points per game. That attitude of “never settle” is prevalent throughout the entire Golden State Warriors franchise. This hunger is a prime reason why they can break this record and win a second straight title.
More than a great offense
Golden State is a high-flying, hot-shooting offensive team. While they do lead the league in points per game (115.1), field goal percentage (.492), and three-point percentage (.438), the Warriors are also effective in every other phase of the game. Passing is a huge part of being a great offensive team, and the Warriors share the ball better than anybody else in the league, as proved by their league leading 29.1 assists per game. Those are just their offensive numbers though.
Golden State is also sixth in the NBA in rebounds (46.2 per game), fourth in blocks (6.4 per game), and they also allow the fourth-lowest field goal percentage in the game (.460). Throw in the fact that they have talent at every position, including Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Festus Ezeli, and it’s clear that this team will be favored to win just about every game they play. It’s anyone’s guess how long their crazy streak will go, but their motivation to be the best of the best may see the team reach levels never before seen in the NBA.