The quest for one record was thwarted on Sunday when the Golden State Warriors beat San Antonio 92-86 to end the Spurs’ chance of completing the first undefeated home schedule in NBA history.
However, the Warriors’ victory kept alive their pursuit of setting the NBA’s single-season win mark. The defending champions cemented their place as one of the greatest teams in league history.
The Warriors (72-9) matched the victory total of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Golden State can set a new mark with a home win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, the season’s final night.
Much of the credit for Golden State’s Sunday victory goes to Stephen Curry, the Warriors’ transcendent point guard, and his 37 points, 16 of them in a pivotal stretch of the third quarter.
A nip-and-tuck game between the teams with the league’s two best records turned in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Warriors forward Harrison Barnes had three big baskets and led a group of mostly reserves to a six-point lead over a mixture of San Antonio’s starters and bench players.
From there, Curry and Klay Thompson took over as Golden State turned a four-point lead into a 90-79 advantage on Curry’s finger-roll layup with 1:34 to play. San Antonio cut the Warriors’ lead to four points in the waning seconds but could not complete the comeback.
Golden State handed the Spurs their first home loss of the season and ended San Antonio’s franchise-high, 48-game regular-season home winning streak that began on March 12, 2015. The Spurs’ streak is the second longest in NBA history, right after the Warriors’ mark of 54 consecutive home wins that ended last month.
“We are in the moment and enjoying the ride, but the goal is to win a championship,” Curry said. “We’ve put ourselves in a great position to do something no other team has ever done. It’s hard to step out of the locker room and understand the hoopla that comes with chasing the record. We want to go out and take advantage of an opportunity that may never come again.”
The Warriors also ended their streak of 33 consecutive regular-season defeats at San Antonio. Golden State’s last regular-season win in the Alamo City was a 108-94 victory on February 14, 1997.
Golden State took the season series from the Spurs, 3-1.
“Steph (Curry) got away from us for a while, but part of the reason we lost was because of some bad shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We lost our poise for about a three-minute period, and that was the difference in the game. We played a hell of a team, and our aggressiveness and attention to detail was much better.”
Thompson added 14 points for the Warriors, while Draymond Green hit for 11 points.
The Spurs (65-15) were led by LaMarcus Aldridge’s 24 points and Kawhi Leonard’s 20 points and 13 rebounds. David West and Aldridge each pulled down 10 rebounds.
San Antonio held a 19-14 lead after the end of a raucous first quarter. The Spurs outrebounded Golden State 18-11 in the quarter, 6-3 on the offensive boards, which created five second-chance points for San Antonio.
The teams fought through tautly played second quarter with the Spurs gaining a seven-point lead twice in the period before Golden State pushed within 31-30 after consecutive 3-pointers by Brandon Rush and Thompson and jumpers by Barnes and Thompson.
Green pumped in a 3-pointer a minute later to tie the game at 33-33, and then Curry picked off a pass from the Spurs’ Danny Green and gave the Warriors a short-lived 35-33 lead. Aldridge responded with a put-back off yet another offensive rebound on San Antonio’s ensuing possession to knot the score at 35-35 at halftime.
“We had some easy looks that we didn’t make, and we had some defensive breakdowns at some tough times that they were able to take advantage of,” Aldridge said. “There are some things we can take away from this game that we can get better at.”
The Spurs opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run, punctuated by a Leonard dunk over Andrew Bogut after a strong move to the basket. Golden State answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Curry that cut the deficit lead to 45-43.
Curry kept shooting and making shots for the rest of the quarter, tallying 16 in the period as the Warriors built a 62-61 lead. The reigning MVP canned a three-quarter court shot at the end of the quarter that was waved off because time had expired.
“San Antonio is a team that doesn’t beat themselves, so you have to come and take a game away from them,” Curry said.
Barnes had seven points and Marreese Speights added a bucket and two free throws in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter to help keep the Warriors’ in front at 73-69. That was when Thompson and Curry took over, and San Antonio never could make a sustained run through the remainder of the game until it was too late.
“Everybody is excited – we just beat a great, great team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s one of the best victories of the year, and with that said, it means nothing come playoff time. It was a true team win, and it was a strange game because this was like the playoffs, when you throw your rotations out of the window. Everybody played well.”