The Cleveland Cavaliers appeared to be a lock to win Game 3 of the NBA Finals on June 7. The Cavs were up by four with 1:18 remaining and had control of the matchup for most of the second half. Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant led a last-minute comeback and the Warriors won 118-113.
“Having a close game down the stretch honestly it’s been a while and that was a great feeling to overcome and just stick to it, just find a way to win,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said after the comeback.
The Warriors now have the longest postseason winning streak in the history of all of the four major pro leagues in America, which are the NHL, MLB, and NFL.15-0 is a postseason start no NBA team has ever accomplished and this historic run is occurring a year after the Warriors won a regular-season record of 73 games.
The 1983 Philadelphia 76ers draw similarities many fans might not realize to these Warriors. In 1982, the Sixers fell in six NBA Finals games to the Los Angeles Lakers. That offseason, the Sixers traded for the league’s reigning MVP, Moses Malone. The team featured five all-stars with Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones. The Sixers finished the regular season 65-17. The Warriors finished this regular season 67-15. Malone predicted the Sixers would go through the playoffs undefeated, but Philadelphia lost one game in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. In that playoff system top seeds had a first-round bye in the playoffs, and those Sixers went 12-1 in one of the most impressive post-season runs in history.
The best Shaq and Kobe run in the postseason for the Lakers was in 2001. Those Lakers went 15-1, as the first round back then were best out of five series. Sixers guard Allen Iverson scored 48 points in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in that one Lakers loss. The Lakers finished that regular season 56-26.
The “Showtime Lakers” of the 1987 season went 65-17 in the regular season and 15-3 in the postseason. Those Lakers featured Warriors guard Klay Thompson’s father, Mychal Thompson.
“I played on some great Lakers teams and we never came close to do anything like this, or any team has,” Mychal said to KNBR before Game 3 on if these Warriors are the greatest team of all-time. “So if they can win two more games… to me — and I will shout it from the highest mountaintops, even in Laker Land if I have to — this will be the greatest team in history. If they can pull it off.”
Of course, the 1996 Chicago Bulls still arguably hold the record as the greatest team in league history, because the 73-win Warriors didn’t win a championship that season. The Bulls finished the regular season 72-10, and the postseason 15-3. That postseason, a 32-year-old Michael Jordan averaged 30.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.3 turnovers and 1.8 steals a game. Scottie Pippen was the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.3 turnovers a game in the playoffs. Toni Kukoc was the only other player to average in double figures for scoring that postseason and Dennis Rodman was the only teammate to average in the double digits for rebounds.
A 29-year-old Curry is currently leading the Warriors in scoring this postseason. Curry’s averaging 28.8 points, 6.3 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 turnovers and 1.9 steals a game these playoffs. Durant is the second-leading scorer, averaging 26.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.5 turnovers and 1.4 blocks a game. Draymond Green and Thompson are the only two other players on the team averaging at least double digits in points these playoffs, and not one Warrior is averaging double digits in rebounds.
This past regular season, the Warriors gave up an average of 104.3 points a game to their opponents. The 1996 Bulls gave up an average of 92.9 points a game. Golden State scored an average of 115.9 points a game, while the 1996 Bulls scored an average of 105.2. Thus, the Warriors had an 11.6 point differential each game compared to the Bulls’ 12.3. For a point of reference, 1983 Sixers average point differential was 7.7. Also keep in mind that Durant missed 20 games due to injury this season, while Jordan and Pippen missed a combined five games in the 1995-96 season.
If the Warriors complete the perfect postseason, a year after breaking the regular season win record and adding a top-three talent in the world in Durant, they need to be recognized as the greatest team in the history of the game.