Inevitably, the Golden State Warriors are going to lose a game. Probably more than one game. Perfection is impossible in the NBA, despite what we’ve seen from Stephen Curry and Co. over the first four weeks of the season.
The numbers associated with Golden State’s season-opening winning streak are mind-boggling – even more so when we start comparing them to the numbers put up by the Chicago Bulls during the 1995-96 season, when they won an NBA-record 72 games.
Golden State is averaging 114.5 points (Chicago was at 103.5 through 15 games in ’95-96) and has outscored opponents by a total of 216 points (the Bulls were at plus-125). The Warriors have scored at least 100 points in every game, have been in the 110s seven times and have scored 120-plus three times. They have been to overtime once, and they have recovered from a potential disaster once (recovering two Saturdays ago from an early 17-point deficit and surviving a missed, wide-open 4-footer at the regulation buzzer by Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets, who ended up losing 107-99 in overtime).
I tweeted that night that the Warriors were a charmed team, and nothing that has happened since has changed my belief.
They have won by 15, 7, 12 and 13 points in four games since, and they are favored by 17 tonight against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. If they can run the table on a seven-games-in-13 nights road trip that begins Nov. 30 at Utah, we really could be looking at a team with a 28-0 record by the time they face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas.
If they win that one, who knows?
Do you see anyone out there capable of beating them? Especially given the way they are cruising through this superlative streak with such wide smiles affixed to their faces? By the time they play the San Antonio Spurs for the first time on Jan. 28, they could be 43-0 (or 42-1 if they lose at Cleveland on Jan. 18).
Seems possible, right? But a warning, and it comes with a first-hand story about those ’95-96 Bulls that begins below the video player.
You must always, always expect the unexpected.
My first year as the lead NBA writer at the Associated Press was 1996, in the midst of that record-setting season. You can safely say it was a busy and bizarre week on the NBA beat that March.
First, the New York Knicks fired coach Don Nelson despite being 34-25 — nine games over .500. They replaced him with a 34-year-old assistant named Jeff Van Gundy who was expected to do no more than keep the seat warm until the offseason, when the Knicks had their sights set on stealing Phil Jackson away from the Bulls — and bringing Michael Jordan along for the ride, too.
On March 10, the Knicks were less than 48 hours removed from a stinker of a loss to a Philadelphia 76ers team that would finish 18-64. Van Gundy was reinstalling an offense centered around Patrick Ewing after Nelson had made the decision to run everything through point forward Anthony Mason. (Naturally, Ewing was not exactly pleased with this decision.) The day after he was fired, Nelson held a news conference at Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on Central Park South, explaining his side of the story – he was miffed that the front office had opposed his decision to trade John Starks for Vinny Del Negro – and then inviting all of the media folks to the bar, where the drinks were on him.
The Bulls came into the Garden for a nationally televised Sunday afternoon game sporting a 54-6 record. The Knicks were a mess. Initially, the game was tight — Chicago came back from an early 17-point deficit and led by three points early in the third quarter. But that game changed dramatically from there, with Derek Harper scoring 16 of his 23 points in the third quarter despite being defended by Jordan, and the Knicks pouring it on, holding Chicago to 12 points in the final period and leading by as many as 34 points. The Madison Square Garden crowd gave the team a standing ovation during the entire final minute, and when the game ended the scoreboard read: New York 104, Chicago 72.
And then things got really weird.
NBC had aired a taped interview with Jackson at halftime in which he expressed interest in taking the Knicks job the following season. He was in the final season of his contract, had a tempestuous relationship with Bulls owner Jerry Reisndorf and GM Jerry Krause, and the firing of Nelson had changed his outlook.
When Jordan was asked about Jackson’s comments in his postgame interview, he sprayed gasoline on the fire. From the AP story I wrote that evening:
“Of course it changes things,” Jackson said when asked whether the Knicks’ coaching situation had affected his thinking. “When I started talking to management about the job and a new contract, the fact was that there was no availability in this league with contending teams. Suddenly, many jobs are open and that changes dramatically the opportunities that a person has to go to.” Then, Michael Jordan came out and said he and Jackson have “linked our destinies together.” Translation: If Jackson leaves, Jordan leaves. “My decision as far as playing in Chicago strictly relies on being with Phil. If he’s not asked back or things don’t work out, I’ll have to evaluate the situation,” said Jordan, who becomes a free agent after this season.
So as we continue to draw parallels between the ’95-96 Bulls and the current Warriors, keep one thing in mind: Any drama the Warriors produce to match the drama that was the Bulls that season will have to come on the court, not off it. Steve Kerr isn’t going anywhere. Steph Curry isn’t going anywhere. And dare I predict these Warriors are never going to lose a game by 34 points.
But as I said two weeks ago on CineSport, and as columnist Paul Ladewski (who covered those Bulls and these Warriors) echoed a couple days later, the Bulls’ 72-win record is in serious jeopardy.
I have never seen an NBA team as dominant as these Warriors, and what I have been seeing from the rest of the West (outside of San Antonio), nobody out there would scare me if I was a Warriors fan. So, Dubs Nation, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.