For six months, the Golden State Warriors have dealt with the outside NBA world picking apart their chances to break the Bulls' single-season win record.
And for six months they've done as a good a job as possible deflecting that talk. Now, with 72 wins under their belt and a chance at history awaiting them Wednesday night at home, they finally have a chance to enjoy it.
"We want to get that number," Steph Curry told reporters at practice on Tuesday. "Why not?"
They should get there, too. The last team standing in their way is an injury-riddled Grizzlies team playing on the second half of a back-to-back. The Warriors opened as 17 1/2-point favorites and are 38-2 at home this season, though those losses came in the last two weeks to the Celtics and Timberwolves. And while the Warriors have beaten the Grizzlies three times this season, including a 50-point shellacking in early November, Memphis had a chance to win at the buzzer when the two teams played last week.
Golden State wrapped up the top seed in the West last week, and a loss Wednesday would have no bearing on their chances of repeating as NBA champions. But the "just another game" cliche they used at times during the year can no longer be avoided.
"We have an opportunity to do something that has never been done before in history," Curry said. "So many great players have suited up since the NBA began, and for us 15 guys to say we’ve accomplished something as a group that’s never been done before, that’s remarkable. So, we earned the right to have a 48-minute game to eclipse that mark and we have to go out and finish the job and do it the right way."
The Warriors had chances to close out the record earlier than this. But that April 5 overtime loss to the Timberwolves - who were 26-51 at the time - forced them to win their remaining four games to clinch the record. That meant two victories over the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors did just that, including knocking off the Spurs in San Antonio, where they hadn't lost all year.
But four straight victories has them on the cusp of history, and the storybook feel to it all has them feeling nostalgic.
"Just the way everything’s worked out," Draymond Green said. "It would have been cool to take care of the games we were supposed to take care of and have it already out the way, but the way this thing has played out, to be at home with one shot at it, it’s pretty amazing and I’m excited about it."
Curry admitted that, while the team is anxious to finally earn their 73rd win, they'll only have a day to celebrate it. The win total will mean little without the season ending in a championship, and their real work will begin Thursday when they begin preparing for their first round opponent, either the Rockets or Jazz.
But for now, the biggest party in the NBA will be in Oakland, Calif., even on a night when Kobe Bryant will play the final game of his 20-year NBA career six hours away. And the Warriors are hoping it ends, like it has 72 other times this season, with a win.
"It should be a pretty electric atmosphere like it is every night when we play at Oracle (Arena)," Curry said. "So just the magnitude of the game and what it means historically should be a fun 48 minutes, and hopefully a night we’ll remember for a long time."