I’ll admit it: I’m fascinated by what Golden State is doing. Maybe you are, too. Stephen Curry is amazing. Draymond Green is tremendous. The Warriors are 39-4, coming off a 34-point win in Cleveland on Monday and last night’s 31-point victory in Chicago. They’re on pace to win 74 games, which would beat the Bulls’ record of 72 set in 1995-96, Year 1 of Michael Jordan’s second threepeat.
I’ll also say this: Splendid as they are, the Warriors aren’t the NBA’s hottest team. San Antonio has won 18 of 19 and is 36-6, which would translate to 70 wins over a full season. If you go by average margin of victory — I recall the late Dave DeBusschere noting in his 1970 book “The Open Man” that point differential was the number he followed most — the Spurs trump Golden State. Their differential is 14.21 points per game; the Warriors’ is 12.14.
A bit of perspective: Eight teams in NBA history have finished with a differential of 10-plus points. Last season’s 67-win Warriors had an average MOV of 10.10. The record is 12.28, set by the 69-win Lakers of 1971-72. (The 72-win Bulls had a differential of 12.24.) But here’s a fun factoid: That season was the only one in league annals that saw two teams finish with a double-figure differential. The 63-win Milwaukee Bucks had an MOV of 11.16, fourth-best ever.
Those Lakers (Wilt, West, Goodrich) and Bucks (Kareem, the Big O, Dandridge) met in the Western Conference finals. The Lakers won in six games. (I recall watching four of them; Chris Schenkel was ABC’s play-by-play man.) Game 2 was one of the greatest ever, though nobody mentions it today. The Bucks scored 134 points and lost by one. Kareem had 40; the Lakers’ Jim McMillian, who’d replaced Elgin Baylor that season, had 42. Twelve players broke double figures.
Speaking of the Bucks and being forgotten: Over a five-year span, Kareem’s team won 56, 66, 63, 60 and 59 games but only one title. Milwaukee was beaten by DeBusschere’s Knicks in the 1970 Eastern finals — the Bucks were shipped to the West the next year — and the Celtics of Havlicek and Cowens in the 1974 finals. (Everyone does recall that epic Game 6, won in the second OT by Kareem’s baseline skyhook in the old Boston Garden.) They were upset by Rick Barry’s Warriors in the 1973 Western semis.
Enough memory lane. The point, such as it is, is that the NBA could be headed for another Western Conference final that decides the league title without actually awarding the championship trophy. Nobody in the East can stand with Golden State — we’ve seen that this week — or San Antonio. And guess what teams meet on Monday?
Spurs at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. EST. I’m not one for plugs, but the game’s on NBA TV.