When you’re the first team in NBA history to ring up a 66-7 record after 73 games, there’s little doubt you’re a dominant team. And that’s what the Golden State Warriors are right now.
But there’s another way to look at it: You can’t get to 66-7 without getting a few breaks along the way. Yes, it’s always a slippery slope when you start to talk about games a team should have won or could have won. But this year the Warriors have been remarkable in very close games, and have seemingly won every game they “should have” or “could have” lost. Even great teams lose a few close games a season.
But you could make a case the Warriors have only lost one game this year they had a shot at winning — at Denver on Jan. 13. In that game, without Draymond Green, the Warriors came storming back from seven down with a minute left and wound up with Klay Thompson getting a look at a 25-footer that could have won it. Other than that, it’s been all Warriors in tight ones.
Obviously, if you’re a Warriors fan, you’re thinking: That’s what great teams do; win the close games. And there’s no arguing that. But if you’re looking for a reason to be critical of the Warriors, here are some of the games the Warriors “should have” or “could have” lost — and they won them all:
Nov. 4: Warriors 112, LA Clippers 108, at Oracle. The Clippers lead the Warriors by one point with 1:17 remaining, but Stephen Curry makes a 3-pointer to put Golden State up two. Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan both miss shots inside a minute that could have tied the game, and Paul later missed a 3-pointer that could have put the Clippers ahead.
Nov. 14: Warriors 107, Brooklyn 99 (OT) at Oracle. The Nets were up three with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, then after giving up a game-tying 3-pointer with six seconds left, had a chance to still win it. Jarrett Jack missed a shot, and Brook Lopez missed a follow-up peeper with one second left that could have won it.
Nov. 17: Warriors 115, Toronto 110 at Oracle. With the Raptors trailing by just one point, and able to hold for the last possession of regulation, Kyle Lowry was called for an offensive foul with 15 second remaining, which led to a pair of Golden State free throws. Then, Lowry inexplicably took a two-point shot as the game clock was winding down, with his team down 3.
Nov. 19: Warriors 124, Clippers 117, in Los Angeles. Just two nights after escaping with the win over the Raptors, the Warriors found themselves down 10 points with five minutes remaining at Staples Center. The parlay of a Warriors’ flurry with a Clippers’ meltdown gave the Warriors a victory.
Nov. 30: Warriors 106, Utah 103, at Utah. The Jazz led the Warriors in the last two minutes and were tied with a minute to play. With Utah down one point, Rodney Hood missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds left.
Dec. 5: Warriors 112, Toronto 109 in Toronto. The game was tied with two minutes remaining, and inside a minute the Raptors turned the ball over with a chance to tie.
Dec. 11: Warriors 124, Boston 119 (2OT) in Boston. The Celtics blew a five-point lead with two minutes left in regulation and also missed opportunities to win the game with the final possession at the end of regulation and the first overtime.
Jan. 2: Warriors 111, Denver 108 at Oracle. The Nuggets came from way down in this one, forced overtime and then led in the extra period before losing.
Jan. 30: Warriors 108, Philadelphia 105 in Philly. The Warriors were never in danger of losing the game in regulation, but they did need a Harrison Barnes’ 3-pointer with one second left to avoid getting pushed to overtime.
Feb. 27: Warriors 121, Oklahoma City 118 (OT) in OKC. This one was either an epic collapse or a monumental rally. The Thunder were up 11 points with just five minutes left in regulation and were up four points with just 15 seconds left in regulation. In overtime, Oklahoma City was up five points before eventually losing.
March 1: Warriors 109, Atlanta 105 (OT) at Oracle. With the game tied and 24 seconds left in regulation, Paul Millsap misses a wide-open 3-pointer that could have put Golden State in a big late hole.
March 21: Warriors 109, Minnesota 104 in Minneapolis. The game was tied with two minutes remaining, and from that point on Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns either missed potential go-head shots or game-tying shots.
This was a good trip down memory lane. IMHO, the only games listed here that felt like they should have been Warrior losses were:
1) Brooklyn: Lopez missing the game-winning tip was inexplicable.
2) Boston: They were the better team that night and the simply couldn’t close the deal, despite many, many opportunities.
3) OKC: Biggest meltdown I’ve seen this season. I was standing up in my living room for the last 2 minutes of regulation and all of overtime. It was that exciting.
This has been a season for the ages — and the Warriors talent and desire has carried them in almost all close games. Curry is one of the greatest closers, if not the best, that the game has ever seen.
Great teams win far more of the close games. There. Said the same thing in a lot less words.