One way or the other, the Boston Celtics are about to play a small role in NBA history.
The Celtic will have their shot at revenge Friday night when they visit the Golden State Warriors, who escaped TD Garden in December with a double-overtime win. Boston’s task will be considerably tougher this time around, as the Warriors haven’t lost at Oracle Arena all season and the C’s could be without starting swingman Jae Crowder.
But the focus in Oakland will be on a much larger headline, as Golden State is close to passing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the best record in NBA history. Entering Friday at 68-7, the Warriors need to go just 5-2 in their last seven games to top Chicago’s record of 72-10.
How likely is it that Stephen Curry and Co. will pull it off? After Boston, the Warriors will face the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves before closing the season with two games apiece against the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs. Using its CARM-Elo prediction model, the sports analytics site FiveThirtyEight gives Golden State an 85.4 percent chance of finishing the season with at least 73 wins.
Here’s how FiveThirtyEight rates the Warriors’ chances of winning each of their remaining games:
As it turns out, the Celtics might be one of the Golden State’s most difficult tests. For starters, the teams’ last three meetings all have been decided by five points or less, including Boston’s near-upset in Oakland last season.
Then there’s the issue of the Spurs: With the Warriors all but locking up the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, there’s a very good chance San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich will rest his starters in both of his team’s matchups with Golden State. (Just ask Tony Parker.) The Warriors beat the Spurs by 30 earlier this season with Tim Duncan on the bench, so if San Antonio rolls out its B-team for either game, that could result in two more easy wins for Golden State.
So where does that leave us? Unless Memphis can steal a game from the Warriors or Damian Lillard goes off for 51 points again, it might be up to the Celtics to thwart Golden State’s historic run. And while Boston enters Friday on a two-game losing streak, the club has no interest in being the Warriors’ stepping stone en route to history.
“It’s going to be a war (Friday night),” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas said Thursday, via The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates a three point shot during the first overtime of the Warriors 124-119 double overtime win over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.