It's sort of like standing in front of Bally's in the middle of the Las Vegas strip and deciding to hoof it to another casino. Look to the left and one can see Mandalay Bay down the road and across the street. Glance right and you'll spot the super-tall Stratosphere. Neither looks all that far away. But you start walking, and walking, and walking some more, and like a mirage, they just never seem to get any closer.
Such would seem to be the plight of the Golden State Warriors chasing the Chicago Bulls' all-time best single regular season record of 72-10 set back in 1995-96.
After starting out the season an amazing 24-0, the Warriors finally got beat (by Milwaukee). That was in the seventh game of a seven game road trip. Quite understandable. No team in NBA history has every swept a seven game road trip. After umpteen thousand miles to and fro around the country, and likely considerable jet-lag, the Warriors were gassed. It was a "getaway" game and they just wanted to finally get home.
Then a lot more wins -- but also a few puzzling losses along the way. How in the world could a team like GS get beat by lowly Denver? Or pedestrian Detroit? The shocker was the Warriors losing to the sad-sack LA Lakers -- the worst team in the league not named Philadelphia. How in the hell did that happen?
This is the same team that had no problem against the likes of Cleveland, the LA Clips, Okla City Thunder -- you know -- GOOD teams. And in their first meeting with San Antonio, they crushed the Spurs by 30 points. Very strange.
Fast forward and see the Warriors sporting a 58-6 record. That's just shy of ten wins for every loss. Incredible stuff. But do the math. That means they had played 64 games with 18 remaining. To surpass the old Bulls' record, they would still need to go 15-3 to finish out the season. In other words, win 5 out of every 6. Like walking on the Vegas strip, the desired destination might have gotten a little closer, but it still seems far away. Going 15-3 would be winning at an .833 clip. A high bar to shoot for indeed. Most teams would be considered outstanding just to win at a .700 pace.
Crunching more numbers, the 95-96 Bulls won at an .878 pace to compile their 72-10 record. What's that? The Warriors just knocked off Phoenix to improve to 59-6? Do THAT math and one will discover GS has a .907 winning rate so far. So the odds just got a little better. Kind of like getting to the Monte Carlo had I turned left, or Treasure Island had I gone right. But there's still some serious real estate to cover either way before getting to the copper castle or that giant obelisk with the heart attack rides on top. And dammit, I'm tired and it's hot out here.
Several interesting subplots are in play. Both the Warriors and the Spurs remain undefeated at home so far this year. No NBA team has ever gone a full regular season with a perfect home record.
The Warriors have a home-friendly schedule for their remaining games and several of them are against "patsies" they should easily dispatch. Then again, as mentioned above, the only games they have lost this year are to teams that were not a little, but a LOT inferior.
Though the Warriors at home thumped them earlier, the game everybody will be watching is when GS visits San Antonio next Saturday. Will the Spurs keep their perfect home record intact? Maybe. If so, that would mean the Warriors used up one of their allotted 3 losses remaining in their chase of all-time regular season greatness. But if they win that game, it would not only send a "message" to the great but so far runner-up Spurs, but greatly enhance their chances at the record.
Better yet, a few weeks after that particular showdown, the Spurs and Warriors have to play each other twice more -- once in each city.
Here's a long shot -- but possible scenario. Theoretically, three firsts could happen in the NBA this year. Both Golden State and San Antonio could wind up with perfect home regular season records.
Even if San Antonio knocks off GS both times they visit Alamoland, the Warriors could still surpass the 95-96 Bulls. They are allowed 3 more losses. That would mean they have one to spare while beating everybody else down the stretch.
Could it all happen? Probably not, but who knows?
One thing is for sure. This is going to get very interesting as the regular season winds down. Those guys don't have the option of jumping into a cab to get where they want to go. They have to grind it out the old-fashioned way.
Something's gotta give.
Or does it?