While the players were willing to talk about it — off the record from very early on — Warriors coach Steve Kerr was not on board with chasing the 73-win mark for a long time. He wants this team to go back-to-back with titles, not burn itself out chasing a record, and said several times earlier in the season he would prioritize rest over wins down the stretch.
That has changed. This is Kerr after the Warriors’ dramatic come-from-behind overtime win in Utah Wednesday.
“Our team wants it. They’ve made it pretty clear, so what we’re doing is listening to them and trusting them that if they’re injured, they’re going to let us know. And if that’s the case, we’ll give them a rest. And if they feel like they’re perfectly capable of getting out there and playing and that’s what they want to do, then that’s what we’ll do.”
But Kerr may be able to get his team both the record and rest.
At 68-7, the Warriors need to go 5-2 the rest of the way to set the record. They will hit that mark.
However, if the Warriors can win their next five games, they can set the record and still have a couple of games where Kerr can go the full Popovich and rest virtually everyone. What are the Warriors’ next five games:
• Friday, April 1, vs. Boston. The Celtics are a good team, but they are not the same team without Jae Crowder (who will not play in this one but is close to a return). The Celtics have been outscored bu 2.7 points per 100 possessions their last 10, this is a game he Warriors should win comfortably.
• Sunday, April 3, vs. Portland. With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollom in the backcourt the Blazers are dangerous, but this is a team 15-24 on the road this season. Plus, the Warriors have a pretty good backcourt of their own (and a taller one).
• Tuesday, April 5, vs. Minnesota. The young Timberwolves have been playing better of late, and Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t just clear Rookie of the Year he’s a clear franchise cornerstone player, but this should be a comfortable win for Golden State.
• Thursday, April 7, vs. San Antonio. Gregg Popovich has already hinted he plans to rest key guys for this game. He should. What he would like to leave as the Warriors’ last taste of the Spurs pre-playoffs was San Antonio’s win at home. The Spurs are never a pushover, but this is certainly winnable for Golden State.
• Saturday, April 9, at Memphis. Memphis is so banged up they may be pulling a guy out of the third row to play 15 minutes for this game.
There is a clear path for the Warriors to get to 73-7. Then there would be a week before the start of the playoffs, and Kerr could get his guys some time off.
I think Kerr wants this 5-0 run because he knows the next game for his team after Memphis would be a back-to-back in San Antonio, where the Spurs are 38-0 this season. Kerr would love to rest his guys for that game, and likely the season finale vs. Memphis.
It’s something to watch. Look for the Warriors to go hard at the record they want, and do it so they can still get in some nights off.