We've been talking about it all year, but now we are down to the nitty gritty. The Golden State Warriors have won 66 of their first 73 games. That means that they only need to go 7-2 down the stretch to beat a record that seemed unbeatable and pass the Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins in a season. Not surprisingly, the pursuit has spawned an active prop betting market. The first book I know of to get into the action was the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, who opened the prop at +500 for the "yes" side on Nov. 24 when the team was 15-0. Needless to say, the price has fallen dramatically - heading into Game 74 on Tuesday night the yes side sits at -700 at multiple books.
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I can't think of a single reason to bet any kind of prop bet at a potential return that low, but it is an entertaining exercise to determine whether it is likely to happen. Let's take a look:
The almost sure things
They play against the Wizards and Timberwolves - two teams that gave up on their seasons a while ago. Both games are in Golden State - where the Warriors haven't lost all season. They should be simple wins. Of course, the Warriors don't always win the games that are the easiest - they have losses against non-playoff teams in Denver, Dallas, Milwaukee and, incredibly, the Lakers. Those have all been road games obviously, though, so it seems far less likely that the team will slip up in these ones. They have also publicly and aggressively stated that they want to break the record. That should mean that they are focused and ready. So, these games should get them to 68 wins.
Golden State plays Memphis twice - at home and on the road. They have already played them twice and they beat them up both times. That was back in November, though, so things have changed. Not enough for the Grizzlies, though, They are a decent team but one that is beaten up badly coming down the stretch. They have lost seven of their last nine, including a loss at the Lakers. It's not going well. I'll happily give the Warriors two more wins here. That gets them to 70.
Boston and Portland
We'll put these two together because they are similar situations. Both games are at home. Both opponents are playoff squads, but neither is playing their best ball right now. They seem to have hit a bit of a wall and are likely more focused right now on getting healthy and ready for the playoffs than anything else. The Warriors have been winning tougher games than these at home all year, so I'm not going to pick against them here. This gets them to 72 wins - and a tie with the Bulls.
This is really the key game. Everyone is focused on the San Antonio games, but if they win this one and do what they should in the other games then the Spurs games aren't as significant to achieving the record. The Jazz are the second game the Warriors will play, on Wednesday, and it comes on the road and one night after playing Washington at home. The Jazz are 8-2 in their last 10 and a solid 23-13 at home on the season. This is a tough test - the biggest for the Warriors outside of the two against San Antonio. Golden State has already beaten Utah three times, but the one game in Salt Lake City was only a three-point win. I still think it is more likely than not that the Warriors will win, but they can't take anything for granted. One thing for sure, though - if they do win this one then the record is theirs to lose.
As we well know, the Spurs just beat Warriors less than two weeks ago. It was the most frustrated and least productive that Curry and company have been on offense all year. These are Games 6 and 8 of the nine remaining, so by the time they are played we will have a much better sense of if the Warriors still have a shot at the record and if they are serious about getting it. We'll also know how healthy they are. It might not be the case, but my assumption at this point is that all the Warriors will need is a split of this series - at worst - to set the record. They can get that. The Spurs are very good, but it doesn't seem reasonable to expect them to sweep the Warriors on the season. The Spurs also don't have anything to gain from playing their hardest down the stretch, either. They will be motivated to finish 41-0 at home - something the Warriors would love to take from them. In Oakland, though, Golden State will have the edge - and their own shot at 41-0 likely on the line. Golden State will be looking to break the record. San Antonio will be focused on being ready for the postseason. Divergent goals, and one that really helps the Warriors.
The bottom line
There are obvious factors at work here. First, if Curry, Thompson and/or Green get hurt, or if they need maintenance breaks, then all bets are off. There is also the risk as well that the team will decide that the record isn't worth it if it means they are below their best when the playoffs start. If they are truly committed to the record and they stay healthy, though, then they are going to break the record. I expect 74-8 to be the final mark. I'm not confident enough in that to suggest that there is any value at -700, but I would say that they are twice as likely to set the record as not - and much more than that if they are two wins closer by late Wednesday night.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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