SAN ANTONIO – They’ve spent three seasons reimaging the franchise. Won a championship. Become the top-of-marquee attraction in every NBA arena and even during All-Star Weekend.
There was, however, one last box for the Warriors to check. To climb massive Mt. San Antonio, in San Antonio, and extinguish a 33-game losing streak that had spread over almost 20 years.
That Final Frontier was conquered Sunday night at AT&T Center, where the Warriors dismissed a lackluster first half and rallied for a 92-86 victory that also allowed them to taste a sweet piece of NBA history.
The Warriors with their 72nd victory matched Michael Jordan and the almighty 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who previously stood alone as the paragon of NBA success.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors win No. 72 in San Antonio, tie Bulls' record]
Forward Draymond Green, the team’s emotional leader, was no more delighted to get to 72 wins than he was for the Warriors to beat the Spurs in San Antonio for the first time since Feb. 14, 1997.
“Here, on this floor, you know it’s tough to do,” he said. “It hadn’t been done all year. It hasn’t been done for us for a long time. They are a great ball club, it’s tough to beat them anywhere, let alone come in their building.”
The Spurs entered the game undefeated at home, 39-0, and they also were favored to even the season series with the defending champs.
And for a while it looked as if the Warriors were victims of fatigue, having won a stressful game the previous night in Memphis.
Green and Curry wouldn’t stand for it. As the Warriors stumbled through the first half, it was Green who kept them from falling. And when they came out for the second half, with the game tied 35-35, it was Curry who led the march of triumph.
Both enjoyed the fruits of their labor.
“We’re in the moment, enjoying the ride and obviously the goal is to win a championship,” Curry said. “That’s what we’re playing for. But we’ve put ourselves in a great position to end the season with a win and do something that no team has done in history so that’s an amazing accomplishment.”
As much as the Warriors cherished this victory, they also understand that this was a regular-season streak that ended in a regular-season game. That it has little or no bearing on what may happen if these teams meet in the postseason.
History, however, is history. The moment was not lost.
“It’s hard to kind of step outside the locker room and understand the spotlight that comes with it or just the hoopla because we come out every night trying to win,” Curry said. “But when you just think about, I guess, perspective, only two teams have done what we’ve done so far and hopefully Wednesday we can finish that off. It’s unbelievable.”
“It’s an accomplishment; I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not,” Green said. “The Bulls? Come on. It’s crazy, so it’s an accomplishment, but the accomplishment that we’re looking for is 73.”
That opportunity comes Wednesday night, when the Memphis Grizzlies visit Oracle Arena on the final night of the regular season. The same Grizzlies that gave the Warriors fits Saturday night at FedEx Forum.
So the deed is not done. There remains one final accomplishment for these Warriors.
“It’s gratifying. It’s fun. Our guys are excited,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“But it means nothing if we see this team down the road.”
It means everything on this night, as winning means Warriors still can achieve their quest for 73.
And winning in San Antonio means the streak that had outlived a generation, that dates back to the Warriors of John Starks and Erick Dampier and Bimbo Coles has perished under the determination and shooting of Curry, along with the grit and sheer determination of Green.
There are, for the Warriors, no more old dragons to be crushed and buried. Only a record to be gained before the next quest, to win back-to-back championships, gets under way in earnest.