The Golden State Warriors are on the cusp of NBA history.
With a 106-94 nail-biting victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors became just the fifth team to start 14-0. They tied the 1957-58 Boston Celtics for the best start by a defending NBA champion and are just one game away from tying the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and 1993-94 Houston Rockets for the best start ever.
Stephen Curry led Golden State with 27 points and four steals. Harrison Barnes had 20 points and nine rebounds. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala scored 15 and 12 points, respectively. Draymond Green added nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.
“Our guys know how to win,” Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said. “It’s pretty impressive. That was a good basketball game out there tonight. Chicago is a good team. Their coaches got them running a lot of good sets. That was tough on the back end of a back-to-back and coming off an emotional high. Our guys showed why we are a championship team.”
Jimmy Butler had 28 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a losing effort for Chicago (8-4). The shorthanded Bulls played without Derrick Rose (ankle), Aaron Brooks (hamstring) and Mike Dunleavy (back). Nikola Mirotic and Kirk Hinrich scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. Mirotic added 10 rebounds and five assists.
Golden State shot 49.4 percent from the field. Chicago was held to just 39.8 percent. The Bulls did limit the Warriors to just 20 assists on 39 field goals and converted 16 turnovers into 17 points.
While the Warriors were coming off a thrilling win in Los Angeles the night before, the Bulls were rested and it showed early. Chicago jumped out to a 11-point lead midway through the opening quarter. Golden State assisted by committing four turnovers. But by the end of the first quarter, the Warriors had trimmed the deficit to one.
It would be a seesaw battle over the next 30 minutes. Neither team led by more than six points. There were 13 lead changes and 15 ties. The last tie occurred with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter. It was heading into crunch time and the Warriors took control.
Curry broke the 89-all tie with five straight points. He splashed a 3-pointer and hit an easy layup. Thompson made the 3-pointer possible with his hustle for an offensive rebound. Green made the layup possible with his great feed to a cutting Curry.
Barnes followed by delivering the knockout punch. The “Black Falcon” made back-to-back 3-pointers, one from each wing, in a span of 33 seconds to put the game out of reach.
“Every single night when it comes down to a close game and it’s time to win — no matter how we played — our guys step up,” Walton said. “When it’s winning time, it’s incredible how good they’ve gotten at locking in and getting the job done.”
Walton went to his small ball lineup with 3:58 remaining and the result was a 14-5 game-ending run. But don’t expect to see the lineup earlier.
“We have faith in all our guys and our lineups,” Walton said. “We know going small for too long doesn’t work because it takes so much energy to guard bigger players. So Harrison and Draymond would get tired and eventually it would catch up with us.”
The Warriors extended their franchise-record win streak to 18 and home win streak to 26. They are the 15th team in NBA history to win that many consecutive games at home.
Upcoming: The Warriors will attempt to tie the record for the best start ever in NBA history on Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The game will start at 5 p.m. PST and will be televised on ESPN.
On the road to 73 wins:
2015-16 Golden State Warriors 14-0
1995-96 Chicago Bulls 12-2