The Golden State Warriors should go for 74 wins

September 26, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard Stephen Curry (30) pose for a photo during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
September 26, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard Stephen Curry (30) pose for a photo during media day at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors should chase 74 wins because they can and it would be perfect redemption.

The Golden State Warriors were two baskets away from finishing what would have been the greatest season in professional sports history. Instead, they were sent into an offseason full of ridicule. Then they signed Kevin Durant.

The range of emotions in the span of a few weeks reached both extremes. The sadness after Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the subsequent feeling that their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for immortality had been squandered was unbearable. But the joy of landing the top free agent in the world was incredible.

The Warriors went 73-9 during the regular season, eclipsing the mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They had a spectacular season until it was derailed by their worst three-game stretch in two years. On the cusp of being the indisputable greatest basketball team of all-time, they faltered and will go down as one of the biggest chokers in the history of the league.

The Warriors re-tooled and signed Kevin Durant. They’re stacked, loaded with four All-Stars, a veteran bench, and a potential star entering his rookie season. Now they’re ready to destroy the league once again.

This team is more talented than last year’s. Sure, they lost a lot of solid role players, but the NBA is dominated by stars and they acquired one of the brightest ones. So now the conversation isn’t only about could they eclipse, it’s about should they?

And the answer is yes. The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors should chase 74 regular season wins. They need to break their own record.

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When the Warriors won the 2015 NBA championship, everyone outside of the Bay Area wanted to take their rings away. As if it was their fault that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love weren’t playing. As if it was their fault that David Blatt didn’t have control of his own team. As if it was their fault that some of LeBron James’ previous trips to the Finals have been less than spectacular.

So they followed it up by proving they were the best team in basketball, passing up Michael Jordan’s Bulls with the first ever unanimous MVP. They were unstoppable. They had solved basketball.

But the Warriors hit some obstacles in the playoffs, most notably Stephen Curry’s MCL sprain. Then the challenges started to stack up and, for the first time in two years, Golden State couldn’t outgun them. By the time they got to Game 7, they were worn down. Up and down their roster–including their head coach–the team was barely hanging on.

And the Cleveland Cavaliers did exactly what they’re supposed to. They played who was in front of them and got the job done. Curry, Andrew Bogut, and Andre Iguodala all had their bodies give out on them at the worst possible time. And by going 6-19 in the fourth quarter of Game 7, the Cavs were able to scratch and claw their way to a four point victory in the series. And their efforts should be commended because regardless of whatever the Warriors were dealing with, they didn’t give up.

The Warriors answered criticism with history. So they should do it again. And, in doing so, silence the critics who doubt Curry’s greatness, hate Durant’s decision, and spend countless hours typing “3-1.”

The stress of chasing 73 didn’t break the Warriors down in June. It was a combination of the physical wear and tear of unrelated individual moments. The argument that chasing the record prevented them from winning the championship is, mostly, lazy.

Admittedly, the pressure must have been in the back of their minds, especially when they had their backs against the wall. The idea of winning that many games and not winning a title was unfathomable. So when they were down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder and when the Cavaliers forced a Game 7, there was surely increased pressure.

The Warriors needed to win as much as they could. The San Antonio Spurs were right behind them, winning 67 games. In order to secure home court advantage in the competitive Western Conference, Golden State could not take their foot off the gas.

And why should they? Why should coaches and players concede losses? You play to win every game that you can. But that’s besides the point. Golden State should chase 74 because 73 isn’t what ended their season on a low note. And it would be the perfection redemption.

Steph Curry would have slipped on the wet spot on the Toyota Center’s floor if they had gone 82-0. He would have slipped on it if they had won 68 games. That wet spot, left by Donatas Motiejūnas, didn’t say “these guys won 73 games. Let me mess with them.” The Rockets’ forward would have left sweat on the hardwood even if the Warriors had won 12 games.

J.R. Smith did not land on Andrew Bogut’s leg because they won 73 games. Gravity and physics didn’t suddenly change when the final buzzer went off after the Warriors set the record at Oracle Arena a month earlier. Bogut sustains that injury regardless of win total.

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James is a big, physical human being. The problems he presents are there for guys on lottery teams and guys on 73 win teams. Iguodala, who played 300 less minutes than during the 2014-15 season, was going to be hit just as hard by James with or without 73.

The Warriors’ injuries that ultimately derailed them had nothing to do with the record. No one should be blamed for wanting to win more. Harrison Barnes forgetting how to play basketball was not related to 73.  LeBron James turning superhuman and Kyrie Irving’s incredible dagger were not impacted by 73. That was not the issue.

The regular season isn’t pointless. The only 3 of the top 12 teams that have won at least 67 games in a season didn’t come away with a title. Three of the last four champions had the best record in the league. It’s plenty valuable.

So the Warriors, now armed with Durant, should go for it again. The players have publicly said they don’t want it and that it’s not a goal. But he knows what he signed up for. These guys all want to chase greatness.

There’s nothing greater than being the best team ever.