For months, the prevailing question in NBA circles has revolved around how seriously to take Golden State’s pursuit of 73 wins, which would shatter the all-time mark of 72-10 held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
According to ESPN chalk, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened the prop Will Golden State win 73 or more games in the 2015-16 regular season on Nov. 24, when the Warriors opened 15-0, offering +500 odds to back the run and making “no” a remarkably heavy -700 favorite.
Throughout January, odds steadily started tilting in Golden State’s favor as the team continued to maintain Chicago’s pace from 20 years ago, steadily decreasing to the point where betting the affirmative trickled all the way down to paying out even money before the Warriors actually became a favorite to do so.
Following a miraculous comeback OT win over OKC on March 3, Jeff Sherman, Westgate’s SuperBook manager, tweeted out an update.
The new odds listed the 53-5 Warriors at -300 to break the record while placing +250 on “no,” returning 2.5-times your investment if you feel it’s time to fade them.
Entering March, the Warriors were universally favored to make history by becoming the first NBA team to get through an 82-game schedule without a double-digit number in the loss column.
If you’re going to take a contrarian’s approach, coming off an upset loss at the Lakers, now is definitely the time to do it. March opened with both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala absent from the month’s first shootaround due to injuries.
Curry’s ankle predictably is feeling the effects from being twisted and then stepped on by Russell Westbrook, but he only missed a single game. Iguodala is dealing with a sore hamstring that has relegated him to the inactive list.
Head coach Steve Kerr has already intimated the Warriors will be erring on the side of caution this close to the playoffs.
While there’s no question he’d take great pride in coaching the team that breaks the record of the legendary team he played on, his primary responsibility lies in doing whatever he can to ensure the Warriors are healthy as they attempt to defend their title.
Say Curry tries to gut it through this injury and he aggravates it further? Say it affects him the rest of the week? Coming off a game where they combined to shoot 1-for-18, the Splash Brothers are struggling.
The Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry if he needs time off to regain his rhythm. Since drafting him in 2009, Golden State is 18-44 (.290) in games he’s missed. While most of that came before this current run to prominence, the Warriors are 1-3 over the past two seasons without him.
Beyond losing their top player for even a game, the fact is Golden State’s brilliance is predicated on the key components being whole. While the team has survived injuries to centers Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, the core of Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green and super sub Iguodala has remained remarkably healthy. Each has missed two games or less this season.
That’s two of the NBA’s top shooters, one of its most versatile players and an elite defender all joining forces. You’re going to need to count on that group remaining intact over the final 24 games, which is tenuous given the current status of Curry and Iguodala.
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson may not have an ally in Kerr here, but they’ve got mercenaries on all 15 teams that make up Golden State’s remaining opposition. To pull off a 73-9 record, GSW will have to finish a minimum of 18-3. While that winning percentage (.857) pales in comparison to the .914 clip it has accomplished to date, it’s no small feat.
The Warriors will see the Spurs three times, including twice over the last four contests. The Mavericks, Jazz, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves and Grizzlies are each up twice, while the Clippers, Celtics and Wizards are among the more challenging teams who will come through Oakland.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].