The Golden State Warriors have collectively morphed into a basketball machine this season. "Bold" is no longer a word to define their pinnacle—it's become the norm.
Golden State, led by Stephen Curry's graceful shooting stroke and mesmerizing ball-handling, has carved an undeniable spot in the history books along its path of destruction. Now sitting comfortably atop the Western Conference with a 56-6 record, the Warriors still have some barriers they'd like to knock down before defending their title in the playoffs.
Postseason seeding is usually the biggest focus for most teams during the NBA stretch run, and it's surprisingly still a concern for the Warriors. The San Antonio Spurs are trailing the champions by just 3.5 games, despite the incandescent run Golden State has put together so far.
Now isn't a time to get sloppy, and increased urgency can still help the Warriors reach some bold achievements.
Golden State Will Set Best Regular-Season Record Ever
The realistic chance to surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' 72-10 regular-season record has received plenty of attention throughout the year. Even so, getting there will take an almost flawless sprint to the finish line.
The embarrassing 112-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Mar. 6 added another dot in the loss column for Golden State, and it was a costly mistake. The Warriors now have to finish the year at least 17-3 to get the record, all while facing a brutal schedule.
Golden State will go up against teams currently thick in the playoff race in 14 of its remaining 20 contests. That includes three games against San Antonio, two of which will be away and take place at the very end of the season. Starters could be rested on both sides if the seeding is already settled, but it could also turn into a true battle for the No. 1 spot in the West.
That type of a competition will inevitably push the Dubs, but they can still get over the hump.
The Warriors will enjoy the comfort of Oracle Arena, where they are currently riding a record 45-game winning streak, in 14 of their remaining contests. The current six-game homestand will allow the champions to recapture some momentum before heading out to take care of business on the road.
The elevated competition should also not scare Golden State. The Warriors somehow kick into a higher gear with the game on the line, which is a confidence-booster when facing feisty opposition. Skeptics may shake their heads at the apparent lucky breaks the champions keep catching, but they are crafting their own fortune.
In the final five minutes, and with a score difference of five or less, the Dubs are putting up an unfathomable net rating of 41.8, according to NBA.com. That blows away any other team, even the Spurs.
It's also important to recall Golden State's losses up until this point:
|Dec. 12 vs. Milwaukee Bucks 108-95|
|Dec. 30 vs. Dallas Mavericks 114-91|
|Jan. 13 vs. Denver Nuggets 112-110|
|Jan. 16 vs. Detroit Pistons 113-95|
|Feb. 19 vs. Portland Trail Blazers 137-105|
|Mar. 6 vs. Los Angeles Lakers 112-95|
Except for the Denver loss, the Warriors have been blown out in five of their defeats, often against significantly inferior teams. Those perplexing blips can mostly be attributed to bad nights on which complacency and tired legs played big parts. Golden State has otherwise plowed through every quality opponent so far.
This is a reassuring track record when analyzing the stretch run, and it's the reason they can go down as the greatest regular-season team ever.
Draymond Green Will Finish Top-5 In MVP Voting
Curry essentially locked up his second MVP award halfway through the season, but not without some help from trusted sidekick Draymond Green, whose versatile presence has been nearly as important to the Warriors' 2015-16 campaign.
He has elevated his game in every conceivable category, and no one can realistically argue that he is just a product of an efficient system. Jonah Gardner of YardBarker.com provided some insight into Green's MVP case:
I'd like to argue that Draymond is more deserving of consideration than he's getting. It's Green's freakish positional versatility that fuels Golden State's Death Star lineup. Green leads the league in triple-doubles, is the first player in nearly 20 years to average 13/9/7, and has played more minutes this year than Curry.
Green is the unquestionable emotional and vocal leader of the team, a widely accepted narrative among media members. That alpha-dog status enhances his case among voters and could very well push him into top-five territory.
This would be a special achievement simply because it's so rare. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant accomplished this twice with the Lakers, while Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain finished second and third in 1972. The same 1995-96 Bulls had Michael Jordan first and Scottie Pippen fifth, which is a scenario the Warriors have a shot at replicating this season.
Green will have to fend off some fierce competition to get there. The Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook tandem figures to be in the conversation, while LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention as well. But a record-breaking season could catapult Green, a glorified role player just two years ago, ahead of the big names.
Klay Thompson Will Have Second-Best Three-Point-Shooting Season Ever
Curry has already broken his own record for three-pointers made in a season this year, and he'll continue to pad that figure moving forward. But Klay Thompson has a shot at cracking his teammate's old record as well.
His 191 three-pointers are currently second behind Curry, which is 95 short of the previous record. It would take approximately 4.8 makes per game on average to reach the plateau, which means that Thompson would have to go on a rampage in March and April.
Here are a couple of possible scenarios which would get him there:
Thompson is currently at 40.2 percent from deep on eight attempts per game this season. If he is to maintain the same average and get the record, he'd have to throw up four more attempts than normal, which is a highly improbable scenario. However, he is capable of pulling that figure up to 10 over a smaller sample size.
Klay connected on 45.5 percent of his long-range shots in December while putting up 9.3 threes per game. That's not far from what would be required over the remaining games.
The Splash Brothers are already heavy favorites in the conversation for the best-shooting backcourt ever, which will be a fact if Thompson can hit over 286 threes this year. The Warriors would then have two players putting up historic shooting seasons simultaneously, which would be a mind-blowing feat.