The goal from the start of the season, as expressed by CEO Joe Lacob, was to get a top-four seed in the Western Conference. The Warriors, atop the conference for the vast majority of the season, zoomed past that marker last week.
And on Saturday night in Milwaukee, they reached the regular season summit.
In winning their franchise-record 60th game, a 108-95 victory over the Bucks, the Warriors clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The road to the NBA Finals goes through Oracle Arena, conceivably the most potent homecourt presence in the league.
“It’s a big accomplishment setting the franchise record in wins with nine games to go," Stephen Curry said after another MVP-caliber performance. "We’ve already locked up the number one seed, too. It’s a testament to how focused we’ve been over the course of the season. We’ve had a big lead in the standings, but we understood the big goal in mind. We kept our focus and we kept our commitment to what we are doing on the floor.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Warriors get 60th win, clinch top seed in West]
How have they done it? The formula is simple, though it requires a set of factors – skill, intellect, selflessness and harmony – that don't always coalesce under relatively complex circumstances.
The Warriors opened training camp with a new staff, led by rookie head coach Steve Kerr, who replaced the popular Mark Jackson. Shortly thereafter, shooting guard Klay Thompson signed an extension that will make him the team's highest-paid player next season. Kerr then modified the starting lineup, inserting Harrison Barnes at small forward for veteran Andre Iguodala. The coach backed into another change, Draymond Green for David Lee at power forward, when Green excelled in Lee's absence due to injury.
Kerr has operated with a flexible playing rotation in which his decisions are based almost solely on a meritocracy. Marreese Speights has been by turns brilliant and invisible. Lee, who has the biggest salary and is a Lacob favorite, has been bumped toward the far end of the bench.
Through it all, there is Curry, the Curry the paradigm and exemplar, his mere presence setting a tone for class and dignity.
Shake it up, pour it out and, voila, the Warriors win 60 of their first 73 games.
"It’s been a special year, obviously," Kerr said. "The guys have been fantastic all season long, with their commitment to each other and to the work. And it’s been so much fun. It’s great to kind of rack up these milestones as we go."
In addition to 60 wins, there is the 25-5 record against the Eastern Conference, the 16-game win streak, the league-leading offense, the league-leading defense, the 34-2 record at Oracle and, for the sheer thrill of it, Curry and Thompson starting together in the All-Star Game.
All things considered, it has been an incredible season – under a rookie coach.
“He has done a great job," Lee, who has handled his career-crossroads season with aplomb, said of Kerr. "I think he has been a great fit for this team. This team has great internal leadership, and you know we all get along. It’s not like he was inheriting a really difficult situation, but he has done a great job of fine tuning what we already have going, and it’s really simplified things for us."
The Warriors have beaten every team in the league at least once. They swept the Bucks for the second straight season, despite a sloppy first half (15 turnovers), by getting blowtorch-hot in the third quarter, hiking a seven-point lead to 19. For Milwaukee, against the team like the Warriors, that's out of reach.
No shame there for the Bucks. The Warriors usually are out of reach for every team in the league.
The Warriors shot 68.2 percent in third quarter, which is becoming their Rally Time.
With 12 more 3-pointers, the Warriors now have a franchise-record 784 treys, 10 more than they finished with last season.
The game turned on Thompson's torrid third quarter, when he scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
The Warriors held the Bucks to 37.9 percent shooting, the 21st time they've held an opponent below 40 percent.
Curry and Thompson continued their hot shooting from beyond the arc, going 9-of-17.
Lee scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes.
The Warriors committed 22 turnovers – 15 in the first half. That nagging issue always seems to lurk in the background, even though it rarely costs them games.
The Warriors won a statement game on Friday, blasting the Grizzlies in Memphis. So they could have mailed this one in, especially after that sloppy first half, blaming hangover. No big deal. With 10 games to play, they needed only one victory to clinch the No. 1 seed.
But that's not how this team is wired. These Warriors have been nothing short of fantastic. And their resolve seems to get deeper as the season goes on. They're as committed to victory – and to each other – as any Warriors team of the past 30 years.