It's only fitting that if the Golden State Warriors are going to match the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' single-season record for wins, they need to get it at a place where they've always left with losses for almost a generation.
The Warriors seek their 72nd victory Sunday at San Antonio, where a well-rested Spurs team is waiting and ready to put a pair of lengthy home winning streaks on the line in arguably the highest-profile game of this regular season.
Golden State (71-9) didn't get to the precipice of history without some drama, outscoring Memphis 20-9 in the final 6:08 in its 100-99 road victory Saturday night. Draymond Green scored seven of his 23 points in the closing 3:32 as the Warriors survived a rare off night from the Splash Brothers as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went a combined 5 for 24 from 3-point range.
And the Warriors won within coach Steve Kerr's framework of not extending minutes for any of his core players with Green and Thompson both logging a team-high 35.
A reserve guard on that '95-96 Bulls team, Kerr is trying to keep his rotations intact and balance letting his players chase history – Green has been adamant about wanting the record.
“He's been more outspoken about this record than anybody,” said Kerr, who said after the game he doesn't care about the record. “He wants it more than anybody I think.
“These games are tricky because you're not sure what you're trying to accomplish. You want to get some guys rhythm, some guys rest. This record is out there, it's important to a lot of people, so there's a lot to process.”
Processing a win in San Antonio during the regular season, however, has been impossible for a while now. The Warriors have lost 33 consecutive regular-season games there since a 108-94 win Feb. 14, 1997, a date so long ago Spurs forward Tim Duncan was still honing his trademark low-post skills at Wake Forest.
It's the longest active home winning streak by one team over another and the second-longest in NBA history behind the Lakers' 43-game dominance over the Kings from 1975-92. Golden State led early in the fourth quarter of an 87-79 loss at San Antonio on March 19, when the Spurs closed on a 9-2 run and held the Warriors to 37.8 percent shooting.
A common thread from Golden State's win Saturday carrying into this game was that Curry and Thompson struggled from distance, going 2 for 19 from beyond the arc, and this is on the second day of back-to-back games. While Curry reminded reporters the Warriors won Game 4 of their 2013 conference semifinal series at San Antonio, he also realizes his best is going to be needed to get this landmark victory.
“It's a big game for us to come out and play aggressive, play smart and overcome the schedule,” said Curry, whose team is 17-2 on the back end playing consecutive nights. “It's hard to win on the road in the league in general, but when you face a team that 99 percent of the time doesn't beat themselves … you have to go and take those games. We know what kind of challenge we have in front of us.”
As the Warriors have chased 73 wins and established a new standard for consecutive home wins at 54, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could not care less about being two wins shy of being the first team to run the table in a season and go 41-0 at home.
He provided one of his vintage, withering retorts Friday when asked if San Antonio's current 48-game run at home in the regular season means anything.
''What does that get you if you're undefeated? Does it win you anything? That's why it's meaningless,” Popovich opined.
The Spurs (65-14) are on their first losing streak of the season after a 102-98 defeat at Denver on Friday night in which Popovich rested all of his starters except Duncan. It also may have been a hangover effect of being locked into the No. 2 seed following its 112-101 loss at Golden State on Thursday.
Duncan responded to his increased workload with a season-high 21 points in 34 minutes, but given the matchup problems the Warriors create when they play small, the veteran forward may see his minutes range closer to the 19 he logged Thursday night.
''You can't make mistakes against these guys,'' Popovich said after Thursday's defeat. ''Best team on the planet. If you lose your concentration defensively or you shoot ill-advised shots or don't move the ball and give it back to them quickly, you're in big trouble.''