LOS ANGELES -- The Golden State Warriors have seemingly forgotten how to lose or perhaps they simply refuse to lose, even when they know losing is inevitable.
"Everyone knows we're going to lose at some point," interim head coach Luke Walton said Thursday after the Warriors' come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. "There's not this overwhelming amount of pressure that our guys are feeling or looking ahead to how long we're going to keep this going. We're just going to keep playing and eventually that day is going to come, but we're going to have fun while it's happening."
Down 23 points in the first half and down 10 points with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors came back against the Clippers to win 124-117 and become just the fifth team in NBA history to start the season 13-0.
The Warriors, whose next test comes at home Friday against the Chicago Bulls, are a victory away from matching the 1957-58 Boston Celtics for the best start to a season by a defending NBA champion. If they beat the Bulls, a victory Sunday in Denver would pull the Warriors even with the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and the 1993-94 Houston Rockets for the best start in NBA history (15-0).
Walton (who isn't being officially credited with any of these wins because Steve Kerr, who is recovering from back surgery, is still the Warriors' head coach) could help Golden State break the record Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Walton won two titles with the Lakers, the team that drafted him in 2003 and for which he played nine of his 11 NBA seasons.
If you compare the Warriors' start across the four major North American sports, they already have surpassed the NHL record of 10 wins to start a season set by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres. They would need to win 16 games to match the New England Patriots' perfect NFL season in 2007 and 20 to match the MLB record set by the St. Louis Maroons in 1884. They have already surpassed the modern era baseball record of 13 wins set by the 1982 Atlanta Braves and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers.
The Warriors, however, weren't talking about setting any records before or after Thursday night's game. The opening of this season is nothing more than a byproduct of wanting to repeat as champions, which they know won't happen in October or November.
"We don't talk about the streak," forward Draymond Green said. "We talk about winning basketball games. Obviously the streak comes with that, but we don't talk about extending the streak or getting the record. It's about continuing to get better each and every night. ... We're not a typical team that wins the title. We got to stay hungry."
As good as the Warriors have been, they are not even halfway to the longest winning streak in NBA history of 33 games, set by the 1971-72 Lakers. Plus, they still have to win 59 more games to match the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' season record of 72-10. But neither of those teams started their season the way the Warriors have.
Instead of getting complacent with success after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the NBA Finals, the Warriors looked forward to defending the title.
"We always talk about how great that feeling was last June in Cleveland on the podium," defending MVP Stephen Curry said Thursday after the first game of his career with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. "We celebrated over the summer and enjoyed the accomplishment. We want to get back to that stage. We know how hard it is obviously. I don't think anyone is cheating the process, and we're motivated to take advantage of the talent and chemistry we have on this roster and building on that."
The Warriors are almost apologetic about their apathy toward their winning streak or any records they might set along the way. They understand the significance of it all and maybe winning streaks in October and November might have meant something to them last season, but everything they're doing now is simply building toward winning the championship again.
"We know this entire year is going to be a different challenge and a different experience," Curry said, "and I think we're handling it pretty well right now. I doubt we'll go 82-0 so we're going to have to deal with failure at some point, but right now the way we're playing and the way we're focused talks to how hungry we are."
Here's a closer look at the longest winning streaks to start a season in the four major professional sports:
Baseball, 20 games: St. Louis Maroons (1884)
It's hard to take the Maroons' season-opening streak seriously now when you consider that manager Ted Sullivan left St. Louis when it had a 28-3 record to take over the Kansas City Cowboys, a rival team in the Union Association. The Maroons, under the guidance of Fred Dunlap, would go 66-16 the rest of the way and win the United Association pennant in the league's only year of existence. Kansas City finished the season 16-63 and Sullivan, 33, played in three games -- two in right field and one at shortstop, collecting three hits in nine at-bats.
In the modern era, the 1982 Atlanta Braves opened by winning 13 straight games in their first season under manager Joe Torre, who had replaced Bobby Cox following his first stint with the team. The '82 Braves won their first National League West title since 1969 before losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. The 1987 Milwaukee Brewers matched the Braves' start under first-year manager Tom Trebelhorn but finished third in the American League East despite Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak and Juan Nieves tossing the only no-hitter in team history.
Football, 16 games: New England Patriots (2007)
New England didn't just start the season with a winning streak, it finished the 2007 regular season by winning all 16 of its games. The Patriots are the only NFL team to compile a 16-0 regular season and were the first to go unbeaten since the 1972 Miami Dolphins (14-0). The Patriots added two more wins in the postseason before being upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, spoiling New England's chance for the NFL's only perfect 19-0 season.
Hockey, 10 games: Toronto Maple Leafs (1993-94) and Buffalo Sabres (2006-07)
The Maple Leafs won 10 straight games to start the 1993-94 season, their first in the new Central Division. Only one game went into overtime, and they racked up some pretty lopsided results during that run, beating Dallas 6-3, Washington 7-1, Detroit 6-3 and Hartford 7-2. They finished the season 43-29-12 and lost to the Vancouver Canucks in the conference finals.
The Sabres equaled Toronto's season-opening streak 13 years later. Their first loss came to Atlanta in a shootout. Buffalo didn't lose a game in regulation until one month into the season, falling to Toronto in the 13th game. The Sabres also set an NHL record by winning their first 10 road games that season. While Buffalo won the Presidents' Trophy for finishing with the best record in the league (53-22-7) that season, the Sabres lost to the Ottawa Senators in the conference finals.
Basketball, 15 games: Washington Capitols (1948-49), Houston Rockets (1993-94)
Before becoming the head coach of the Boston Celtics, Red Auerbach was the head coach of the Capitols for three seasons and led them to a historic 15-0 start his final season as their coach. Washington went on to win the Eastern Division before losing to the Minneapolis Lakers in the BAA Finals. Auerbach would get his revenge in Boston, winning nine championships and beating the Lakers to win five of them.
The Rockets matched Washington's season-opening run 45 years later. After their streak was snapped by Atlanta on Dec. 3, 1993, the Rockets won seven straight, falling just one victory shy of tying the 1969-70 New York Knicks for the best record with one defeat in NBA history (23-1). Houston, however, went on to beat the Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals in seven games, claiming what would be the first of back-to-back titles.