The Golden State Warriors don’t want a record without a championship.
Those 73 victories were quite an achievement, but they also guaranteed nothing more than the right to open every playoff series at home. To get what they really crave, they need 16 more wins now.
As Michael Jordan said after the Warriors’ broke his Chicago Bulls’ record for victories: “I look forward to seeing what they do in the playoffs.”
That starts Saturday, when the Warriors host the Houston Rockets in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference finals. They went on to beat Cleveland for the championship, and they enter the postseason as the favorites to win again.
They know what it means if they don’t.
“We have an opportunity to win 16 games and can accomplish that goal and do it all. It would suck to not finish the job off,” Stephen Curry said.
“I know having gone through that experience last year a lot goes into each playoff series in that journey to win a championship and it’s entirely different than the regular season, so I think we’re prepared for that. But I mean it’s hard to say right now how we’ll feel if we don’t because we don’t have that mindset. So it’s all about winning and we’re still in good positon right now.”
Also Saturday: No. 2 Toronto hosts seventh-seeded Indiana in the Eastern Conference and No. 5 Boston visits No. 4 Atlanta. In the West, third-seeded Oklahoma City hosts No. 6 Dallas.
On Sunday, it’s East champion Cleveland against No. 8 Detroit, with No. 3 Miami following against No. 6 Charlotte. San Antonio hosts Memphis in the opener of the 2-7 series in the West and the fourth-seeded Clippers are home against No. 5 Portland.
The Spurs, Thunder and Clippers all are formidable teams, but then again the Warriors went 10-1 against them. And if Golden State does make it through the West, there’s a good chance of an NBA Finals rematch.
LeBron James has been on his top of his game lately, and the Cavaliers are loaded for their second shot with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love after neither was healthy after Game 1 of last year’s series.
“If Cleveland plays well, I mean, they’ve got the best team. And the thing that they have, and a couple of other teams have it too, but when you have a superstar, he can elevate his game,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.
“If they play well, it’ll be difficult for anybody in the East to beat them four times. Somebody can beat them once or twice maybe, but not four times in my opinion.”
Some things to watch during the postseason:
RAPTORS READY? Toronto lost in the first round as a higher seed the last two years, getting swept last season by Washington. But the Raptors went 56-26 in their best regular season ever, have an All-Star backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and believe they are ready after posting a winning record against every other East playoff team.
“We’ve learned from it, I know we’ve grown from it, we showed remnants of growing from it throughout the season,” coach Dwane Casey said, “and there will be no difference going into the playoffs and being in those similar situations.”
FOUR 3s: Four teams in the East finished tied for third with 48-34 records. So take away the numbers in their seeds, and there is no real difference between Miami and Charlotte, or Boston and Atlanta, setting up the possibility for lengthy, competitive series.
FEAR THE BEARD? The Warriors handled the Rockets in five games last year and appear too deep for this Houston team that needed to win its final three games just to finish .500 and earn a playoff spot on the final night of the season. But James Harden makes them dangerous after averaging 29 points, second only to Curry’s 30.1, and also ranking sixth in the NBA with 7.5 assists per game.
“I believe James Harden is good enough for one game,” TNT’s Chris Webber said.
WHO WINS? The Cavaliers are the class of the East, but the Warriors are better than everyone — and better than anyone in the NBA’s ever been in the regular season. They seem too good to lose — unless James can do something spectacular.
“His team needs him to do everything,” Webber said. “The Warriors are the front runners. He is going to have to play the best ball we’ve seen.”