It still seems unfathomable that any team could surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' all-time record of 72 wins in a season, but that is exactly what the Golden State Warriors did in 2015-16. Golden State won its 73rd game of the campaign Wednesday with a 125-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
There are so many roadblocks that stand in the way of winning even 50 games in a long NBA season, let alone 73. Yet the Warriors were able to overcome obstacles such as injuries, the opposition giving its best shot on a nightly basis, the physical grind of 82 games and complacency after winning a title in 2014-15 to etch their name in basketball lore.
As if the number 73 isn't astounding enough, the Warriors surpassed a team that was led by the greatest player in the history of the game—Michael Jordan:
As he has all season, Stephen Curry led the way with 46 points, six assists and 10 made three-pointers. Draymond Green flirted with a triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Klay Thompson chipped in 16 points and four made three-pointers.
Thanks to Curry's outing, he finished the season with a per-game average of 30.1 points behind 50.4 percent shooting from the field, 45.4 percent shooting from three-point range and 90.8 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
The Grizzlies received 24 points and six rebounds in defeat from Zach Randolph.
Despite the blowout loss, Memphis hung with the Warriors in the opening minutes and was only down 18-16 at one point. Then Curry went into takeover mode.
The defending MVP drilled three consecutive shots from beyond the arc to open up a 27-16 lead in what seemed like the blink of an eye. He was already halfway to his total from long range in the opening quarter and was clearly on a mission to get that 73rd win:
Ryan Krasnoo of Sports Illustrated wasn't sure what the Grizzlies could do on the defensive side:
NBA TV shared the third deep ball of the streak:
Behind Curry's ridiculous shooting, the Warriors built a 37-23 lead by the end of the first quarter. Curry scored 20 points and hit six threes in those opening 12 minutes alone and seemingly had put the game out of reach.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted the fact 20-point quarters are business as usual for the electrifying guard:
Golden State's second unit maintained the double-digit lead early in the second quarter, and Chris Vannini of CoachingSearch.com urged fans to look beyond the lights-out shooting that's been so synonymous with this historic team:
With all the focus on the Warriors as they controlled the first half, Eric Freeman of Yahoo Sports realized the Grizzlies were simply overmatched without their floor general—Mike Conley:
The drama surrounding who would win the game was essentially gone when the Warriors held a 20-point advantage, but Curry created some in his chase for 400 three-pointers in a season. He hit his 399th in the second quarter, which drew this response from Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times:
Golden State took a 70-50 halftime lead into the locker room, and Kevin McGuire of College Football Talk was ready to give Curry and his teammates the record with two quarters remaining:
Curry didn't make the fans wait long in the second half for his 400th three. He hit it less than a minute into the third quarter and didn't appear to have any doubt it was going in:
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how incredible this season has been for the sharpshooter:
Kevin Lipe of the Memphis Flyer put things into perspective by comparing Curry to the Grizzlies:
This feat is all the more unbelievable when considering the number of teams as a whole that have fallen short of Curry's individual accomplishment:
Memphis actually chipped away at Golden State's lead in the middle stretch of the third quarter after Curry reached that milestone. After the Grizzlies cut the deficit to 14 points, Andy Glockner of The Cauldron said they were doing just enough to keep the home team engaged.
However, every time the Grizzlies had even the slightest semblance of momentum, the Warriors had an answer. The Warriors used another one of those responses to take a 102-81 lead into the fourth quarter. The 73-win mark was becoming a reality, much to the astonishment of Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
The game was never in doubt in the final quarter, and it was more of a celebration inside Oracle Arena than anything else. The fans even broke out into a wave, but Ethan Strauss of ESPN put another spin on it with basketball immortality at stake:
With the regulars watching from the sidelines, the Warriors bench etched this team into the NBA record books.
Now that they've reached 73 wins, the only question remaining for the Warriors is whether they can parlay their historic regular season into a second consecutive championship.
Perhaps the pursuit of 73 victories physically and mentally drained them, but there is so much talent everywhere on the floor that it is hard to pick anyone else heading into the postseason. This is also the same core that won the title last season, so the Warriors are playoff-tested and understand what it takes to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Every team Golden State faced this season was looking to knock the Warriors off their pedestal, so the additional intensity that comes with the playoffs will not be a culture shock.
As for the Grizzlies, they will face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for Memphis, Conley and Marc Gasol are both injured, which means it isn't much of a threat to the 67-15 Spurs on paper.
Of course, if the Grizzlies somehow make it past the Spurs and continue to advance in the playoffs, they would probably have to play the Warriors. Given what happened during Wednesday's contest, they may not even want that.
The Warriors didn’t wait long after their victory to celebrate with the fans, via the team’s Twitter account:
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement after the record-setting win, per Marc J. Spears of ESPN:
So did His Airness himself, Jordan. His manager, Estee Portnoy, passed it along:
In something of a testament to the doubt the Warriors received from older players this season, center Andrew Bogut said, “If anybody asks me anything in 20 years, I'm going to say everyone sucks,” per Zach Harper of CBS Sports.
Green was reflective of the team’s process following the historic victory, per the Warriors: “When you have the opportunity for something like this, you go for it. And that's what we did.”
Golden State coach Steve Kerr discussed his team’s journey, per the Warriors: “I'm proud of [the team] for putting it all out there and laying it all out on the line through 82 games.”
Now the Warriors will have to lay it all on the line again when the slate starts anew in the playoffs. If they do that, they will be holding up the championship trophy for the second straight year.