Isaiah Thomas' Shot May Have Sunk Golden State's Chance at Breaking the 1996 Bulls' Record
Seemingly all season, the talk has been about whether or not Golden State can break the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls record of 72-10. This time yesterday, Golden State sat at 68-7 with an unblemished home record, and only needed to finish the season 5-2 to break the record.
The Warriors first challenge was to get past the Celtics, who had taken them to double-overtime in their first meeting this season. Boston was 4-6 in their last ten games entering last night's contest, and was without starting forward Jae Crowder.
The game was also being played at Oracle Arena, where Golden State held a perfect 36-0 record and had won 54 in a row dating back to last year. Our projections gave Golden State an 86.97 percent chance to win by the time tip-off rolled around. They were also a 12-point betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.
The Warriors should have easily taken care of business and moved one game closer to the record, right? Not if Isaiah Thomas had anything to say about it!
Thomas struggled through the first half, as the Warriors held him scoreless. Despite his poor first half showing, Boston headed into halftime with a two point lead on the back of an Avery Bradley buzzer-beater that increased Boston's win probability by 4.2 percent, according to numberFire Live.
Even with a two-point halftime lead, our projections still gave Boston just a 23.23 percent chance at pulling off the road upset.
It wasn't until a Marcus Smart layup with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter that numberFire Live saw Boston as the favorites. His shot added 5.7 percent win probability to Boston's cause, and gave them a 90-83 lead in the game.
On the next possession, Klay Thompson missed a contested jumper, which dropped Golden State's win percentage by 0.4 percent. Smart then hit a three on Boston's next possession to give them their first double digit lead and add 10.3 percent to their win probability.
Golden State wouldn't go away, though, eventually clawing their way back to a 46.68 percent win probability on a Draymond Green layup with 3:58 left in the game.
They would never get closer than that, though, eventually falling to just a 5.52 percent win probability following a Draymond Green turnover and two made free throws from Evan Turner. Down four, with just 18 seconds left, it was desperation time.
Harrison Barnes stepped up and hit a big three pointer though, which put Golden State down one and added 18.6 win probability to their cause. Following a 20-second timeout, Boston inbounded the ball from the sideline with ten seconds left. That's when this happened:
Stephen Curry nearly intercepted the inbound pass, but instead left Thomas open for a layup -- his 22nd point of the second half. The layup all but sealed the deal, adding 14.3 win probability and giving Boston a 91.5 percent chance to take home the W.
Curry got an open look from behind the arc with four seconds left, but missed, dropping Golden State's odds of winning to just 5.13 percent. Harrison Barnes was able to grab an offensive rebound and throw up a desperation three, which also missed. According to numberFire Live, Golden State's chances of winning dropped to just 0.61 percent when Barnes launched his last-second shot.
Now 68-8 and 36-1 at home, our Team Rankings have Golden State a clear step behind San Antonio as the league's best team. Our projections don't think Golden State breaks the 95 Bulls record either, projecting them for 71.9 wins.
Three of Golden State's remaining six games are against teams in the top 15 according to our Team Rankings, including San Antonio twice and Portland once, both of whom Golden State has lost to at one point this season.
Golden State could still reach 73 wins, especially if San Antonio decides to rest starters down the stretch. If they don't break the record, though, Isaiah Thomas' shot may be what ultimately sunk their chances at a historical season.