SAN ANTONIO -- The Golden State Warriors notched a historical victory over the San Antonio Spurs 92-86 on Sunday night. The Warriors joined the ranks of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, with a chance to surpass them with a historic 73rd win on Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. And finally, after 33 straight failures, the Warriors won another regular-season game in San Antonio.
Right after the final buzzer sounded, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green embraced on the court. Later, Green said of Curry, "That's my guy. Me and Steph are really tight and to share that moment together is special because we know the amount of work that we put in and to come here and get that win meant a lot. Just had a moment."
After the moment, even though the game was over, Curry protected the rock. "It's in my locker," he said of the game ball. "One thing I learned from last year, the championship, is don't throw the ball when something good happens. Andre [Iguodala] took it from me last year, so I kept this one."
Has a game with no playoff implications ever carried so much weight? The game technically didn't bring Golden State closer to a championship, but in the Warriors' view, it brought them closer to immortality.
With this win, they join the iconic Jordan Bulls. The '96 Bulls alumni have mostly resisted this moment, denigrating the Warriors through the media. After the game, Kerr indicated as much, saying that all but two of his former teammates would be muttering curses under their breath.
It's clear Curry, Green and Klay Thompson look to the '96 Bulls with a reverence that has yet to be returned. That's natural, as older people often resist crediting the young and ascendent.
"With Pip coming out and saying what he said, that's cool," Draymond Green said of Scottie Pippen's recent prediction that the '96 Bulls would sweep the 2016 Warriors. "At the end of the day, we respect those guys," Green said. Then, he spoke of meeting Jordan and receiving a message. "Mike told me, at All-Star [Weekend], 'Go win the record. Go get the record. If y'all don't win this record, I'm 'a be hot and I'm blaming you.' We're almost there. We got one more game or he gonna blame me."
It's looking like Green will walk away from that conversation sans blame. There was a desperation to Sunday's affair. Even if, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich declared of his team's undefeated home record, "I don't think they give one damn," the Spurs were searching against the Warriors. They've yet to be able to score consistently in this matchup, which bodes poorly for their playoff chances.
Golden State had its own issues. Recently, Curry had been slumping by his standards, not quite conjuring the early-season magic. That looked to continue as the Warriors began the game Sunday struggling to get clean looks against San Antonio's top-ranked defense. After one quarter, Golden State had garnered a mere 14 points.
While this was another great team defensive effort from Golden State, sometimes the Warriors' success feels as simple as, "Steph Curry does stuff." When Curry isn't trending transcendent, they're beatable. When he's making the kinds of attempts he goaded in during the second half, they're impossible.
In a matchup where he has been run off the 3-point line so often, Curry has lately managed to find answers on the interior. He closed out the Spurs on an array of absurd floaters from physics-taunting angles as his team hit its stride.
The Warriors collectively matched Curry's offensive brilliance with another excellent defensive performance against the Spurs, with Green leading the charge. After the game, Golden State assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams appraised, "Draymond Green was two men today." Adams, whose nature can be exacting, conceded that he was happy with the game and overarching accomplishment.
History is replete with people feeling foolish for doubting the Spurs, but the Warriors have made such doubt logical, at the very least. San Antonio likely has to go though Golden State to get a sixth title. So far, they've yet to score. Compounding that issue, they're facing a player who can score from anywhere, at trajectories that shouldn't be feasible.
That Warriors-Spurs series, though expected by many, remains a hypothetical concern. Now Golden State must refocus on Memphis, for one game that means more than one game. Having joined some history with win 72, they return home to make it.