But they were spared another postseason matchup with the Spurs with the Grizzlies’ loss at Golden State. On their own, either of those events would be seismic. They have the depth, the experience, and the brain thrust to make it happen. Only two players in the last five postseasons – Harrison Barnes and Kawhi Leonard – have capped their rookie years with 100 points or more in the playoffs. That team was the Golden State Warriors, and their 73rd win of the season, which came on Wednesday night, effectively validated their entire season and their place in basketball history. Bryant and the Lakers actually came out on top in this regard besting Steph Curry and the record-setting Warriors 134,000 to 111,000.
This victory dethroned the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls, led by none other than Michael Jordan, whose 72-10 record had served as the NBA’s greatest mark for 20 years.
The four-time MVP has been in five straight Finals and a year ago almost dragged the injury-ravaged Cavaliers past the Warriors before falling in six games.
Here’s a Derek Tidbit I want to pass along, for the first time in four years, the 2016 NBA Playoffs doesn’t have a single that’s below 500.
Head coach Steve Kerr has done a good job limiting the playing time of his starters down the stretch.
“They’re the best”, said West, of Golden State.
Kerr missed his team’s 24-0 start and the first 43 games overall – Luke Walton led the Warriors to a 39-4 record in Kerr’s absence – while dealing with complications following two back surgeries. Including playoffs, it’ll be the 1,566th game of Bryant’s career – each one in a Lakers uniform. In baseball, the Seattle Mariners (2001) and Chicago Cubs (1906) both won an MLB-best 116 games in a season, but neither won a World Series despite their regular season heroics.
The Jazz just won’t be spectators.
No. 2 TORONTO (56-26) vs. No. 7 INDIANA (45-37).
Everything else comes down to the final night.
On Sunday, it’s East champion Cleveland against No. 8 Detroit, with No. 3 Miami following against No. 6 Charlotte. In order for the Rockets to pull of an upset, Harden’s game will have to transcended to the reality in which I believe the Rockets can beat the Golden State Warriors. “We ended up with the third seed and we’re at home, but that guarantees nothing”.
Their biggest threat is another team with 67 victories this season – the San Antonio Spurs.
Houston will earn the right to be the No. 8 seed and play the Warriors in the first round with a win over Sacramento.
In a reality where the Rockets are capable of pulling off an upset, here’s what they would have to do.
Despite all those accomplishments, Golden State encountered more adversity than it did in its 2014-15 title-winning campaign, previously the best season in franchise history.
Not much drama left in these departments. “A lot of people wrote us off and thought we weren’t going to make the playoffs and here we are”, Houston star James Harden told reporters. Normally that would have been the the league’s best record.
This unusual start for the Warriors hammers home the point that there is no room for celebrating history when the business end of the National Basketball Association season arrives.
Considering the Warriors’ NBA dominance this past season and Bryant’s legacy over the past 20 years, I can’t help but wonder why Bryant epitomizes greatness.