Progress Report: Golden State's Run at Immortality
With their convincing sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans, the Golden State Warriors continued on their path towards becoming one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
The Warriors entered the playoffs in already elite company. They are only the 10th team in NBA history to reach 67 wins in the regular season and one of only eight teams to have a double-digit point differential for a full season.
Only five teams have done both in the same season.
|Team||Season||Point Differential||Regular Season Wins|
|Los Angeles Lakers*||1971-72||12.3||69|
|Golden State Warriors||2014-15||10.1||67|
Four of them have won the NBA championship in that same season. The other has a 47.2 percent chance to win one this year.
That exclusive 67-win, double-digit point differential club the Warriors have a chance of joining includes a Lakers team led by Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain that won a record 33 straight games and three Bulls teams headlined by the trifecta of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and coach Phil Jackson.
Rarefied air hardly describes what Golden State is looking to achieve. The words "Showtime," "Bad Boys," "Big Three, ""Shaq & Kobe" or "Bill Russell" do not appear anywhere on that list.
So, after starting off the postseason 4-0, how does their performance so far compare with these four teams?
|Team||Season||First Round Record||Point Differential||Offensive Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency|
|Los Angeles Lakers||1971-72||4-0**||10||N/A||N/A|
|Golden State Warriors||2014-15||4-0||8||115.8||107.3|
**Playoff format had three rounds total
Just like the other four teams, Golden State swept their first round opponent. The Warriors' first round point differential is on the lower end of the spectrum, although not by much, probably due to their poor performance through most of Game 3. Also, the reliance on the three point shot may have had something to do with it. New Orleans attempted 21.25 threes per game in the series against Golden State, while there was no three-point line in 1972 for the Lakers to defend.
Golden State's league-best defense from the regular season (with a 101.4 Defensive Rating) is carrying over to the playoffs thus far. Their Defensive Rating through the first round is almost equal to both the '92 and '97 Bulls and trails only -- perhaps the greatest team of all time -- the '96 Bulls.
Offensively, the Warriors are scoring just as easily as the '97 Bulls, although Golden State makes a much greater emphasis in shooting threes. Whereas the '97 Bulls attempted 16.33 threes per game, Golden State averaged nearly twice as many with 31.0 attempts per game in the first round.
Also, Golden State's heavy reliance on ball-movement and making the "extra pass" has translated well through the playoffs thus far. They have averaged 25.8 assists per game, nearly six more per game than the '97 Bulls (20.0 assists per game) and just ahead of the '96 Bulls (25.0 assists per game). However, the Warriors still trail the '92 Bulls in this category, as they averaged 28.7 in their first round series against the Miami Heat.
Through one round, while Golden State has not performed at as high a peak as the '72 Lakers, '92 Bulls and '96 Bulls, they are performing at a near-exact rate as the '97 Bulls, considered by many to be one of the 10 greatest NBA teams of all-time.
Considering their regular season dominance, Golden State is performing as expected.
We've seen regular season juggernauts come up short when the games matter most (i.e. 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers). We've seen teams with decent records take their play to an out-of-this-world level in the playoffs (i.e. 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers). And we've seen season-long favorites stumble and survive their way to the title (i.e. 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers).
But with this first-round series, Golden State is off to a great start in being anointed as NBA royalty.