The Golden State Warriors are 48-4 and need to go 25-5 to finish 73-9 and set the NBA record for wins in a single season. At their current pace of one loss every 12 games, the Warriors should smash the record and finish with 75 or 76 wins. Yet ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) gives the Warriors only a 37 percent chance to win 73 games. Why?
Can they keep winning close games?
The Warriors are a great team (no doubt), but they have won a lot of close games that might go the other way in the second half of the season.
The Warriors are . . .
• 8-1 in games decided by five points or fewer
• 3-0 in overtime
• 6-4 when trailing by double digits at some point in a game
• 10-4 when tied or trailing in the final five minutes of the game
The Warriors have the best winning percentage in the NBA in all of the breakdowns above.
Maybe those numbers speak to Golden State’s greatness, but it is also likely that some of those trends end.
ESPN’s BPI accounts for how the games were won in projecting a team’s future strength. The Warriors lead the league in BPI, but many of their second-half opponents are not far behind, which is reflected in Golden State’s game and win total projections.
Potential issues with rest, injuries and fatigue
Everyone knows that Curry and Green are valuable, but ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus puts a value on their on-court impact. RPM estimates the net points per 100 possessions a player contributes to his team, isolating his impact from that of his teammates and opposing players.
Curry and Green are each contributing more than nine points per 100 possessions above average. If either of these players is resting, fatigued or injured, the Warriors are likely much more vulnerable.
According to BPI’s strength-of-schedule calculations — which account for opponent strength, game site, rest, distance traveled and more — Golden State has played the third-easiest schedule in the NBA this season, but will play what is projected to be the sixth-hardest remaining schedule in the league.
Important notes about the Warriors’ remaining schedule:
• Seven games (four on the road) against the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers
• Six-game road swing in nine days coming out of the All-Star break
• Seven back-to-back games, tied for the most of any Western Conference team
• Of those seven back-to-backs, all are against opponents with at least one day of rest; six require travel; and three end on the road against the Spurs or Clippers (which already figured to be tough games).
The Warriors are still BPI favorites in 28 of their final 30 games, but a team being favored does not mean it will win.
After factoring in the scheduling hurdles noted above and the projected team strength of the Warriors and their opponents, BPI expects Golden State to win about 72 games on average. Seventy-three wins is definitely within reach, but it is by no means a lock.