As the NBA regular-season winds down, quite a bit of attention is being paid to the Golden State Warriors and their quest for 73 wins. At 70-9 after Thursday night's 112-101 drubbing of San Antonio, the Warriors need to win out to break the single-season mark of 72-10 set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, and with a pair of games against the playoff-bound Grizzlies and one more showdown with the No. 2-ranked Spurs remaining, doing so will be an enormous challenge.
To be fair, Golden State hasn't particularly struggled with Memphis thus far, winning a pair of November games against the Grizzlies by 50 -- the second-biggest blowout in the NBA this season -- and 16 points, but San Antonio, a bona fide title contender at 65-13, won't be an easy out, especially given that the Spurs, even after Thursday's loss, are still in pursuit of a record of their own.
Yes, while most of the discussion of late has focused on how San Antonio is the biggest roadblock between Golden State and history, the Warriors, in order to supplant the Bulls as the winningest regular-season team of all time, will have to deny the Spurs some history, too. The best single-season home record of all time is 40-1, set by the 1985-86 Celtics, and at 39-0 so far at AT&T Center, the Spurs have Larry Bird and Co. in their crosshairs.
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"The road has always been a tougher place to win in the NBA, but a lot of people chalked (our record) up to the leprechauns and a little magic from Red Auerbach," Greg Kite, a reserve center on the '86 Celtics, told FOX Sports on Thursday. "But as much as anything, that was just a good way to get in someone's head a little bit.
"It was a tough place to play, a great place to play," Kite added of the Boston Garden. "And obviously we had a great, great team."
Of course, if the Spurs were to set a new mark, it would only be the latest in a series of impressive recent home feats. Here's a look at San Antonio's success on their home floor, by the numbers:
The Spurs' run of consecutive wins at home, six off the Warriors' all-time record of 54, a run that ended with a loss to the Celtics last week at Oracle Arena. At this point, San Antonio already owns the record for consecutive home wins to start a season -- the 40-1 Celtics' lone home loss came in December of that season, to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Percentage of home games the franchise has won in the Tim Duncan era. In some ways, this season's success at home has simply been an extension of what's been happening in San Antonio for 19 years. Since drafting Duncan No. 1 overall in 1997, the Spurs are 572-131 at home when Duncan plays. Their worst effort during that span? 28-13.
While inarguably fantastic, that mark still isn't the best ever. The Celtics won 85.9 percent of their regular-season home games when Bird was in the lineup, the Lakers' home winning percentage was 84.6 when Magic Johnson played, and the Bulls won 82.1 percent of the time when Michael Jordan took the floor at the United Center.
That's the number of San Antonio's 39 home wins so far that have come by double digits. Of the remaining 15, just four have come by fewer than five points, with only two decided by one possession. The one true close call came in a 100-99 January victory over the Knicks, which ended on a missed Jose Calderon 3 at the buzzer.
Total time in minutes and seconds out of 468 total minutes that the Spurs have been trailing at home in the fourth quarter this season. The Spurs have been behind in the fourth in just five home games this year and have spent less than a single cumulative quarter playing catch-up. It should be noted that two of those five games came against the opponents left on San Antonio's home slate -- Oklahoma City spent a total of 3:02 ahead on March 12 and the Warriors led for 1:36 in the fourth on March 19 -- but those deficits came early in the frame and the Spurs rallied to win both games by eight.
Those numbers are not to say that the Spurs can't be toppled at home, but ultimately, the degree of difficulty in winning those remaining two games will depend significantly on what's at stake for the opponent -- and whether Spurs coach Gregg Popovich even cares enough about setting the record to bother playing his own players.
For Golden State coach Steve Kerr, the incentive to keep playing his starters is evident, even with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference now sewn up. At various points throughout the season, Kerr has waffled about whether he'd rest his starters down the stretch, but so long as 73 wins are still on the table, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors stars will play.
As for the Spurs, Popovich previously told reporters that the home record means "nothing" to him, however, he also said before Thursday's game that he intends to play his starters in Sunday night's tilt with the Warriors in San Antonio.
Perhaps that changes if the Warriors' best players are all in suits on Sunday, but Popovich may feel inclined to keep his top guys on the floor regardless, and in either case, he should continue to go full bore, if only because setting the mark for home wins might be a good omen for the postseason.
"Maybe it's not something they'll really talk about, but it's probably more of a pride thing," Kite said of the Spurs. "They're playing the Warriors and the Thunder at home, and those are two likely playoff opponents. Do you want the Warriors and Thunder thinking they can come in and win on your home court? No, you don't want that, even if it's the last game of the season."
In '86, the Celtics won 31 consecutive home games to end the regular season -- a mark the Spurs would also break should they go 41-0 -- and went on to win that season's NBA Finals over the Houston Rockets, going 10-0 at the Boston Garden in the playoffs.
Critics will certainly point out that three of the six teams to go 39-2 at home in NBA history also went on to win an NBA championship -- a group that includes last year's Warriors; this year's Golden State team is 38-2 -- so it's not exactly a case where correlation equals causation. You can lose at home and win a ring, but it's still not a bad thing to carry some momentum into the playoffs.
"Certainly losing a regular season game doesn't make or break what you're going to do in a playoff series, but it certainly doesn't hurt you (to win)," said Kite, who was also a part of the Celtics 1984 championship team as a rookie. "It would be a great boost for the Spurs and something that can't necessarily help the Warriors' mindset."
Plus, there's something to be said for making history, even if you're prickly Gregg Popovich, and, presuming a Warriors win Saturday in Memphis, it would be a very Spurs-like thing for San Antonio to take another step toward setting a truly unbreakable record while simultaneously denying another that still may never be topped.
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