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Warriors Chasing History: As historic season winds down, still no room for error

With a little more than a week remaining on the ledger, one of the National Basketball Associations most mythical and untouchable records, the 72 wins set by the Chicago Bulls in 1996, is beginning to crest on the horizon. As Stephen Curry and the 2016 Golden State Warriors continue their torrid pace through the regular season, this weekly series will track their progress relative to that all-time great Bulls team led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Records are made to be broken. Quite coincidental that that particular grade-school truism was taught to these Golden State Warriors the past week -- the same group of competitors who have spent much of the past four months collaborating to take down the mother of all team records in the world of basketball. Yes, these Warriors were roughed up a bit, caught on a bad night by the crafty Boston Celtics and their whip-sharp helmsman, Brad Stevens. Stevens and his traveling band of castoffs ended the Warriors' 54-game home winning streak, inching the Warriors towards loss number 10.

It was a one-loss week, something that most reasonable watchers forecasted -- although many of them assigned responsibility for said defeat to the gritty Utah Jazz. The Jazz did well to take advantage of any advantages there were to be taken, but the Warriors' on/off switch was stuck on "on" just long enough for the Warriors to take the game to overtime. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green both played much more grueling minutes the past week than Steve Kerr would have admittedly preferred, which throws the Warriors' current situation into a sharp juxtaposition with the San Antonio Spurs'.

Andrew Bogut is lost for at least one game due to an injury he sustained setting a legal screen in the Celtics bout. Festus Ezeli is reportedly gearing up for a return against the wily Portland Trailblazers on Sunday, while Andre Iguodala's return is becoming more eminent every passing day.

The magic number of losses that separated the Warriors from the Bulls was down to just one. One more freebie loss sets them at nine on the year. A subsequent loss in the final six games would have limited the Warriors to a maximum of 72 wins, a tie for the record which, in a ludicrously privileged sort of way, would almost be disappointing at this juncture.

Golden State Warriors: April 3, 2016 to April 9, 2016

In the penultimate week of what has already become the most winningest season in almost two decades of NBA basketball, the Warriors entered scheduled to play four of their remaining six games of the season. One would have thought that the rest favored the Warriors, as they rhythmically play every other day, a continuation of a pattern dating back to the first week of March. However, after stunningly dropping a game to Minnesota last night, San Antonio comes to Oakland to conclude the Warriors' current four-game home stretch.

Much more to come on Minnesota during next week's update, but for now let's look at what lies ahead.

Date Opponent Opp. SRS Opp. Rest (Days) GSW Rest (Days) 2016 Series Record (Differential)
April 3 Portland Trailblazers (H) 0.82 0 1 3 - 1 (GSW +29)
April 5 Minnesota Timberwolves (H) -4.00 1 1 2 - 1 (GSW +11)
April 7 San Antonio Spurs (H) 10.86 1 1 1 - 1 (GSW +22)
April 9 Memphis Grizzlies (A) -2.02 0 1 2 - 0 (GSW +66)

The Warriors had that aforementioned "oopsie daisy" loss to cash in, and they've already used it up before playing the cruelly efficient Spurs (twice). Perfection is now a necessity to continue their chase towards history.

If ever there was a proverbial "low point" in the greatest season in franchise history, this is it.

Trends of the week: No one is getting extended respite from the grueling end-of-season slog, as the Warriors play two teams on their second-game-in-two-nights stint. Their last game of the week, in the Bluff City on Saturday, might be the easiest game of the week -- if not the entire season. The Bears of Beale Street are licking their wounds, as their point man Mike Conley's return from injury is being pushed back towards the start of next year and their All-NBA pivot Marc Gasol remains out for the year. The bottom has dropped out for the Grizzlies as their extreme roller-coaster ride of a season is winding down.

In fact it's not inconceivable, given their extremely unfavorable closing schedule and the Trailblazers' recent hot streak, that the Grizzlies could drop out of the playoffs altogether. The Grizzlies, with two appointments with the Warriors, another with a healthy Los Angeles Clippers, a feisty and motivated Dallas Mavericks team, and a Chicago Bulls team treading tepid water in the Eastern Conference, could conceivably lose out the rest of the way -- closing with a mindboggling two wins in their final 17 games.

The Grizzlies would be tantamount to a first round bye for whichever top four seed fortuitously gets to play them -- if they make it into the postseason at all, that is. This is not an affront on the Grit and Grind era of Memphis (although that era of bluster is not without fair critique), because Memphis isn't exactly fielding their quintessential lineup. One hopes their collection of D-League call ups can hold the rope long enough to drop to eight, but not all the way to nine.

The toughest opponent of the week is the San Antonio Spurs, of course. In their final game in Oracle (until, most likely, the Western Conference Finals), Spurs - Warriors III will likely be a tactician's delight and a headline-makers disappointment. Tony Parker recently said in an interview he didn't expect coach Gregg Popavich to even bring out the Spurs' starters. Nevertheless, the Spurs' skeleton crew is more intriguing (and more dangerous) than any combination of Timberpups or D-League All-Stars or Damien-Lillarding Trailblazers the rest of the week has to offer.

The Spurs meeting will have deep implications in the way that coach Steve Kerr and Luke Walton counter the latest Popavich scheme to cover Stephen Curry on offense. Or, perhaps, neither side will make any adjustments at all for fear of giving the other side tape to counter their counter -- thus necessitating further adjustments in a "back-to-the-drawing-board" manner.

It's two teams healthily over 60 wins in the second week of April. It's the Spurs. It's the Warriors. It's can't miss television.

Chicago Bulls (65 - 8): April 7, 1996 to April 13, 1996

Date Opponent Opp. SRS Opp. Rest (Days) CHI Rest (Days) 1996 Series Record (Differential)
April 7 Orlando Magic (A) 5.40 2 1 7 - 1 (CHI +94)
April 8 Charlotte Hornets (H)* -0.48 1 0 3 - 1 (CHI +71)
April 11 New Jersey Nets (A) -4.14 1 2 3 - 0 (CHI +32)
April 12 Philadelphia 76ers (H) -9.45 1 0 4 - 0 (CHI +73)

*Indicates Bulls lost

The young franchise from Charlotte upended the Bulls in Chicago, in what would become one of two one-point losses at home in the final four home games for the Bulls. Even legendary teams led by legendary competitors have off-days. A sample of 82 games is large enough to have such oddities occur in isolated groupings.

A 31-year old Dell Curry came off the bench for the Hornets in their upset bout with the Bulls and scored a James Harden-esque 19 points off of just four made field goals. The only player in the game to shoot more free throws than Poppa Curry was seldom-used Bulls wing Michael Jordan, who shot a truly James Harden-esque 19 free throws in the game. With Robert Parish and Steve Kerr also playing in this game, there were past and future Warrior connections aplenty on the court.

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