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Spurs (38-6) vs. Warriors (40-4) an unprecedented matchup of strength

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The Spurs and Warriors will make history when they meet tonight (10:30 ET on NBA TV).

Never have two teams with as high a combined winning percentage as San San Antonio (38-6) and Golden State (40-4) met this far into the season.

In fact, nobody has come close.

The difference between the combined winning percentage for this game and the second-ranking game – Celtics (34-12) vs. 76ers (46-4) in 1967 – is greater than the difference between No. 2 and No. 42.

Here are the 50 games with the highest combined win percentage this deep into a season (88 combined games):

Game Combined win percentage
Jan. 25, 2015: San Antonio Spurs (38-6) v. Golden State Warriors (40-4) 88.63%
Jan. 24, 1967: Boston Celtics (34-12) v. Philadelphia 76ers (46-4) 83.32%
Feb. 4, 1972: Los Angeles Lakers (44-7) v. Milwaukee Bucks (45-11) 83.17%
Jan. 28, 1981: Boston Celtics (42-9) v. Philadelphia 76ers (44-9) 82.68%
Feb. 6, 2015: Atlanta Hawks (41-9) v. Golden State Warriors (39-8) 82.46%
Apr. 7, 1996: Chicago Bulls (65-8) v. Orlando Magic (55-19) 81.62%
Feb. 5, 2009: Los Angeles Lakers (39-9) v. Boston Celtics (41-9) 81.62%
Feb. 25, 1996: Chicago Bulls (48-6) v. Orlando Magic (40-14) 81.47%
Feb. 4, 1981: Philadelphia 76ers (45-10) v. Boston Celtics (43-10) 81.47%
Feb. 8, 2009: Los Angeles Lakers (40-9) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (39-9) 81.43%
Mar. 1, 1972: Los Angeles Lakers (57-11) v. Milwaukee Bucks (55-15) 81.15%
Mar. 9, 1997: New York Knicks (46-16) v. Chicago Bulls (53-7) 81.14%
Jan. 30, 1985: Philadelphia 76ers (35-9) v. Boston Celtics (37-8) 80.89%
Feb. 5, 1997: Los Angeles Lakers (34-13) v. Chicago Bulls (42-5) 80.84%
Jan. 27, 1973: New York Knicks (40-12) v. Boston Celtics (40-7) 80.80%
Mar. 14, 2007: Phoenix Suns (49-14) v. Dallas Mavericks (52-10) 80.79%
Mar. 4, 1983: Boston Celtics (42-15) v. Philadelphia 76ers (50-7) 80.69%
Feb. 12, 1967: Boston Celtics (44-14) v. Philadelphia 76ers (52-9) 80.66%
Apr. 16, 1997: Miami Heat (59-20) v. Chicago Bulls (69-11) 80.49%
Mar. 17, 1972: Los Angeles Lakers (64-12) v. Milwaukee Bucks (59-18) 80.38%
Feb. 29, 2000: Los Angeles Lakers (45-11) v. Portland Trail Blazers (45-11) 80.35%
Jan. 28, 1973: New York Knicks (41-12) v. Boston Celtics (40-8) 80.19%
Mar. 8, 1967: Philadelphia 76ers (62-11) v. Boston Celtics (55-18) 80.13%
Feb. 2, 1997: Chicago Bulls (40-5) v. Seattle SuperSonics (32-13) 79.99%
Apr. 1, 2007: Phoenix Suns (54-18) v. Dallas Mavericks (61-11) 79.85%
Feb. 7, 1973: Boston Celtics (43-11) v. Los Angeles Lakers (44-11) 79.81%
Mar. 11, 1967: Boston Celtics (55-19) v. Philadelphia 76ers (63-11) 79.72%
Mar. 18, 2015: Golden State Warriors (53-13) v. Atlanta Hawks (53-14) 79.69%
Mar. 2, 2006: San Antonio Spurs (44-12) v. Dallas Mavericks (45-11) 79.45%
Jan. 15, 1981: Milwaukee Bucks (33-12) v. Philadelphia 76ers (39-7) 79.11%
Mar. 22, 1997: Chicago Bulls (58-9) v. Detroit Pistons (48-19) 79.09%
Jan. 25, 1981: Philadelphia 76ers (43-9) v. Phoenix Suns (40-13) 79.04%
Feb. 16, 1986: Boston Celtics (40-9) v. Los Angeles Lakers (39-12) 78.99%
Mar. 1, 1981: Boston Celtics (51-15) v. Philadelphia 76ers (54-13) 78.94%
Mar. 6, 2009: Boston Celtics (48-14) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-12) 78.68%
Apr. 12, 2009: Cleveland Cavaliers (64-15) v. Boston Celtics (60-19) 78.47%
Feb. 11, 1972: Boston Celtics (42-18) v. Los Angeles Lakers (49-7) 78.44%
Apr. 10, 1997: Chicago Bulls (67-10) v. New York Knicks (53-23) 78.42%
Mar. 28, 2006: Detroit Pistons (55-14) v. Dallas Mavericks (54-16) 78.41%
Mar. 18, 1997: Chicago Bulls (56-9) v. Seattle SuperSonics (45-19) 78.28%
Feb. 8, 2015: Memphis Grizzlies (37-13) v. Atlanta Hawks (42-9) 78.21%
Feb. 14, 1997: Chicago Bulls (43-6) v. Atlanta Hawks (32-15) 78.12%
Apr. 1, 2012: Oklahoma City Thunder (39-12) v. Chicago Bulls (42-11) 77.87%
Feb. 6, 1973: Los Angeles Lakers (43-11) v. New York Knicks (45-14) 77.87%
Mar. 9, 1973: Boston Celtics (57-13) v. Los Angeles Lakers (52-18) 77.85%
Apr. 3, 2009: Orlando Magic (55-19) v. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-14) 77.84%
Apr. 15, 2007: Dallas Mavericks (65-14) v. San Antonio Spurs (58-21) 77.84%
Mar. 31, 2013: Miami Heat (57-15) v. San Antonio Spurs (55-17) 77.77%
Mar. 16, 1983: Philadelphia 76ers (54-9) v. Boston Celtics (44-19) 77.77%
Feb. 17, 1991: Los Angeles Lakers (36-13) v. Portland Trail Blazers (41-9) 77.77%

Reduce the minimum of the range all the way to 30 combined games. Still only one game features a higher combined win percentage than Spurs-Warriors: Houston Rockets (18-1) vs. Seattle SuperSonics (16-1) in 1994.

The closest proximity is probably Bucks (35-8) vs. Lakers (39-3) in 1972. Milwaukee’s win snapped the Lakers’ 33-game winning streak.

It’s just rare for two teams on this level to meet so deep into the season – mostly because it’s rare for two teams to play at this level in the same season.

Not only are Golden State and San Antonio winning frequently, they’re winning big.

The Spurs are outscoring opponents by 14.5 points per game. The Warriors are +12.1 per game. That’d rank as the No. 1 and No. 7 marks of all time over a full season.

Here are the top 20 teams in point difference per game this far into a season, San Antonio in black and Golden State in blue:

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We’ve seen something like this only once before. Beside 2015-16, just one other season produced two teams in the top 20 of margin of victory per game.

In 1971-72, the Lakers (69-13, +13.9) and Bucks (63-19, +13.2) dominated the competition.

Like the Spurs and Warriors, they even shared a conference. Milwaukee was in the West back then. Los Angeles won four of five regular-season meetings then beat the Bucks in six games in the conference finals en route to the title.

Those Bucks – even with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and a championship the previous season – are probably still underrated. They just had the misfortune of playing the same time as a loaded Lakers team that featured Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.

There just hasn’t been anything like that simultaneous domination – until now.

For perspective, here are the top two teams in point difference per game this far into each season (No. 1 in black, No. 2 in blue):

image

However, there’s a big asterisk on the Warriors’ and Spurs success: They haven’t faced each other.

It’s much easier to dominate when not facing the league’s other elite teams. That’ll change soon.

This is the first of four meetings between Golden State and San Antonio. The Warriors still have all three of their games against the third-best Thunder left, and the Spurs also face Oklahoma City thrice more.

For both Golden State and San Antonio to maintain their high average margin of victory, they’ll have to beat up even more convincingly on other teams. After all, they can’t both dominate their four games with each other. They’ll likely pull each other down to the mean.

But perhaps one can keep its résumé so shiny. If so, will it be the Warriors or Spurs?

Someone will land the first blow in tonight’s historic matchup.

If you’re a Comcast subscriber in the Bay Area, you can stream tonight’s Warriors-Spurs game here.

Gregg Popovich ducks Australian sideline reporter for interview (VIDEO)

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San Antonio Spurs and Team USA basketball coach Gregg Popovich is notorious for not giving interviews to sideline reporters. At this point, it’s already become a schtick that’s considered a played out.

But abroad, Popovich hasn’t done that much ducking of in-game media. Perhaps he needs to get some practice in before the 2019 FIBA World Cup starts in China?

Popovich was in attendance at an Aussie rules football match this week when a reporter from BT tried to get him on camera to say a word. Not obligated to fulfill any requirements the way he is in the NBA, Popovich quickly gave the reporter the slip.

Via Twitter:

Even if you don’t like Popovich doing this to NBA reporters, this feels like it’s forgivable. There’s no obligation for him to be on TV outside of the NBA, and media is his face all the time. Pop is just trying to enjoy a game, and the reporter didn’t seem like he was too bent out of shape about it.

Meanwhile, the legend of Pop grows internationally.

Should the Raptors use this retro floor next season? (PHOTO)

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Teens keep releasing retro floors for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season. Retro jerseys accompanied a lot of these floor releases, and teams like the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Charlotte Hornets have dipped heavily into the nostalgia sphere.

This season it could be much the same for the Toronto Raptors.

In a graphic posted it to r/nba this week, a potential new floor for the Raptors showed something a bit different.

Or should we call it an old floor?

Just months after Toronto won the NBA championship, it appears that they might be looking to harken back to the team’s very first year in existence.

Via Reddit:

What do you think? Are you a fan of the old purple dinosaur look, or do you think that nostalgia has tinged of the lenses of our judgement?

Team USA plays down loss to Australia: The real thing doesn’t start until China”

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It was the first time Team USA has lost an international game since 2006 — 78 straight wins. That seemed like a big deal.

It absolutely was huge for the 52,000 in attendance in Melbourne, where Australia was the one that upset the USA. This was validation for a strong basketball country and program — remember in the 2016 Olympics they lost by just 10 to a USA team with Kevin Durant, and it took a late push from Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony to secure that win — that has never quite gotten the huge win on the international stage.

But after the loss, members of Team USA chalked it up as a learning experience. Coach Gregg Popovich said that, and the players followed suit. Quotes via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Kemba Walker: “Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better. The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.”

Donovan Mitchell: “To be honest, this game doesn’t mean anything. Obviously it hurts to lose, but I look at this and we look at this as more of a learning experience as opposed to we just lost. That’s the mindset. If you think of this as a loss, you start to get carried away with all that.”

Technically, all of that is true. If the USA goes on to win gold at the World Cup, this will be but a blip on the radar.

But the loss also showed just far Team USA is away from that goal and how much work there is to do. Watch the game and what stood out — besides Patty Mills getting red hot and dropping 30, with 13 of that in the fourth quarter — was the difference in cohesion and chemistry. The core of this Australian squad has been playing together for a decade, and with Andrew Bogut as the offensive fulcrum (and Joe Ingles playing that role some) guys were cutting, moving with purpose, and seemingly always in the right place to get an open look or layup.

The Americans are trying to build chemistry on the fly and it comes and goes. Particularly on the defensive end. Team USA members lose guys on cuts, don’t help the helper consistently, and for stretches look like a team just thrown together. Especially under pressure, when the ball movement stops and there is too much one-on-one on offense.

This American squad still has the talent to overwhelm and beat most of the world. However, with some of the USA’s top talent staying home, there are a handful of teams out there — Serbia, Spain, Australia, France — with the talent to hang, and then it becomes about chemistry and execution. Team USA was beaten badly in those hard-to-quantify categories by Australia. The American’s margin for error is much smaller in this World Cup.

Maybe the loss galvanizes Team USA in a way nothing else could. Maybe. And the players are right that things don’t really matter for the USA until the games in China.

But Team USA still has a lot to prove.

James Harden working on one-legged step-back three for next season

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As if James Harden wasn’t unstoppable enough.

Harden’s step-back three has become probably the most unstoppable shot in the NBA. Now video has gone viral in NBA circles of Harden working on a one-legged, step-back three. Think Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged jumper, but from three and with a little more side-to-side to it. (You can see the video above.) Harden talked to Tim MacMahon of ESPN about it.

“I’m not sure; it’s something that I work on,” Harden said when asked if he’ll use the one-legged, step-back 3 this season. “But you know how Mike [Jordan] has his fadeaway and Dirk [Nowitzki] has his one-leg and [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] had the sky hook, I want my step-back to be one of those moves that last forever. So when I travel around the world and I see little kids that [say], ‘Hey James, I got a step-back!’ — I love to see that.

“It’s me being a creator and me being an innovator and paving the way in basketball in my own way, doing it how I want to do it, and that’s what it’s all about. As a little kid playing in these parks, that’s what I imagined, that’s what I dreamed of. Now it’s coming to reality, so it’s pretty cool.”

Harden is going to score a lot of points… or, maybe the better way to say that is he’s going to score even more points if he gets to a point he unleashes that in a game.

The challenge this season for Harden will be balance — he’s got to share the court and the ball with Russell Westbrook. Both of them are at their best with the ball in their hands, creating in isolation, but they need to be more than that. While coach Mike D’Antoni can do some things to help with that balance (staggering their minutes as much as possible) for the Rockets to become the contenders they want to be Harden and Westbrook have to be more than “your turn, now it’s my turn” on offense.

But when it’s Harden’s turn, that one-legged step back will be fun to watch.