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Warriors beat Spurs, have 72 wins, need 1 for history

USA TODAY USA TODAY 11/04/2016 Sam Amick
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The history was made in fitting form, with Stephen Curry doing what he so magically does in those final historic moments they'd worked so hard for.

The Warriors finally reached the rarefied air of Michael Jordan and his legendary 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team, alright, downing the San Antonio Spurs 92-86 on Sunday night to improve to 72-9 and guarantee at least a tie for the record 72-10 mark. They also became the first team in league history to never lose two games in a row for an entire season.

And the reigning MVP who scripted this thing from the start, fittingly, finished the job.

Curry hit driving layups, leaning floaters, and those patented transition pull-up threes that are so impossible to defend. For good measure, and despite the “MVP” chants of Spurs fans who lavished the love on their own Kawhi Leonard, the Warriors’ reigning MVP even dribbled through the entire Spurs cavalry with some 90 seconds left before his layup put Golden State up 11 points late. He finished with 37 points, hitting 13 of 22 shots overall and – by way of a four three-pointer outing – coming with eight three pointers of a 400 mark for the season that is nothing short of unimaginable.

Golden State Warriors Draymond Green (23) is defended by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in Sunday's game. © Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports Golden State Warriors Draymond Green (23) is defended by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in Sunday's game.

Get the MJ crying face memes ready: with the Warriors’ season finale on Wednesday at Oracle Arena against the depleted Memphis Grizzlies, that Bulls record is likely about to fall.

When it was over, Curry and fellow All-Star Draymond Green hugged at midcourt. Curry cradled the ball, pointing to his teammates who all implored their coach, Steve Kerr, to push for the record. Kerr is the only person to have a stake in both records -- he was a player on that Bulls team and now is coaching the team that could break their record.

The Warriors, who were held to a season-low in scoring for a quarter in the first period in which they trailed 19-14, used a 12-0 run in the third quarter to take a 49-45 lead. Two big three-pointers from small forward Harrison Barnes midway through the fourth came in handy, and a Thompson three shortly thereafter put them up 76-69.

As late regular season games go, this was an embarrassment of riches. Just three days after two teams that had won at least 65 games faced off for the first time in NBA history, the Warriors winning 112-101 at Oracle, it was happening for a second time. And there was much more than the Bulls’ record at stake.

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson. © USA Today Sports Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson.

The Spurs lost for the first time all season at AT&T Center, failing in their attempt to be first team to finish a season undefeated at home. The Warriors had been in that race until recently, losing two of their past three games at home after starting 37-0. The Boston Celtics had come the closest, going 40-1 in 1985-86.

“I know them all pretty well, and I don't think they give one damn about that,” Popovich said. “All they care about is getting as good as they can possibly be to play whoever we are going to play and to have a shot in the playoffs to win everything. I think that's all they really care about.”

Yet the more important part, the thing that might matter should these two teams meet in the Western Conference Finals like so many hope, is that the Warriors pulled off a rare win in a place that has haunted them for so long now. The Golden State streak of regular season losses in San Antonio that began on Nov. 19, 1997 in San Antonio was stopped at 33, but only these past few seasons are what truly matter for these purposes.

The Curry-led Warriors had won once in San Antonio since he came into the league, a May 8, 2013 decision in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Confidence, without question, will come from this.

It made for a fascinating subplot, with both coaches being forced to focus on something other than the ultimate goal of a championship because of the excellence they helped foster. These are good problems to have this time of year, and they were handled quite differently.

The Warriors, who made it clear for months that they had a serious interest in besting those Bulls, kept pushing at a time when – special circumstances aside – the notion of resting core players might have made more sense.

For Kerr’s part, he finally admitted in recent days that he didn’t care about breaking the record that he played a pivotal part in setting while serving as a sharpshooting reserve for those Bulls. But his players did, and that meant he would honor their collective wish to keep charging at history.

“Yeah, I got to believe that Steve cares about (the record) a whole lot less than his players do,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who won two of his five championships with Kerr coming off of his bench. “(But) if the players are of one mind, give them credit for that. And if you are the coach, you pretty much got to roll with it.”

So roll they did, all the way into the history books.


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