In late October, before Stephen Curry sank his first 3-pointer of the season, oddsmakers were casting a skeptical eye on the Golden State Warriors. There was absolutely no talk of a 72-win season for this jump-shooting gimmick team.
The betting public is often accused of getting things wrong. Well, the oddsmakers are way off target sometimes, too. Here’s proof: The Warriors’ regular-season win total was set at 59½.
One number is reality today, and the other became comical long ago. The Warriors upped their record to 72-9 by upsetting the Spurs 92-86 in San Antonio on Sunday, when Curry scored 37 points against a great defense that was hellbent on stopping him. Curry has made 392 3-pointers this season, another absurd number.
There were no champagne bottles popped in Chicago. Golden State tied the 1995-96 Bulls’ season record for wins, and the Warriors will be big favorites to win No. 73 on Wednesday against Memphis.
“In two months, we’ll see what all of this means,” said Bruce Marshall, a handicapper for The Gold Sheet. “It doesn’t matter if the Warriors don’t win the whole thing, and I’m not sure they will win the championship.”
Curry and the Warriors are making a habit of proving the so-called experts wrong. Remember when it was said a jump-shooting team could not win an NBA title? Golden State dispelled that theory so convincingly that playing small-ball and shooting 3s is becoming a hot trend in the league.
In recent weeks, several experts warned against Warriors coach Steve Kerr playing his starters for heavy minutes while chasing the Bulls. Kerr stuck with the plan and, for now, it has paid off. Golden State stopped a 33-game losing streak in San Antonio dating to 1997.
But if the Warriors falter in the Western Conference playoffs, the critics will say Kerr pushed his players too hard in pursuit of the record. And they might be right, but only time will tell.
“This could really be a detriment to the Warriors in the playoffs. It’s such a long year, and they could be on tired legs,” Westgate sports book oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “It’s tough going full bore for 82 games like that.”
The marathon schedule in the NBA is the main reason many were skeptical of the Warriors winning 72 or more games. I can admit when I’m wrong, despite what my ex-girlfriend said in our last argument. Three months ago, I did not expect Golden State to reach this goal. Injuries can sabotage a team, and mental and physical fatigue definitely take a toll.
In late November, with the Warriors sitting at 16-0, Sherman was inspired to post a proposition bet at the Westgate: Will the Warriors win 73 or more regular-season games? The “No” side opened at minus-700, with “Yes” at plus-500.
Golden State climbed to 24-0 before a loss at Milwaukee on Dec. 12. On Jan. 16, the Warriors fell to 37-4 with a loss at Detroit, prompting Sherman to take down the prop.
In a Jan. 18 story I wrote for the Review-Journal, Sherman was quoted as saying, “They have got no chance to get there. There’s no way the Warriors are going 36-5 with that schedule.”
Of course, the Warriors have made us look foolish.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been wrong,” Sherman said. “Amazing season.”
Golden State avoided costly injuries, fought through fatigue and got really lucky a handful of times along the way.
“The Warriors had some close calls,” Marshall said, “but they usually survive the close games.”
There was a double-overtime win at Boston on Dec. 11. Curry hit a last-second 30-footer in a crazy overtime win at Oklahoma City on Feb. 27. There was an overtime win at Utah on March 30, and a one-point win at Memphis on Saturday. There were a few more lucky victories, but that’s what it takes to win 72 (soon to be 73.)
There also were missteps. Golden State was a 17½-point favorite in a 17-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 6. The Michael Jordan-led Bulls of 20 years ago also suffered a few stunning losses.
As for the prop posted in November, taken down in January and soon put back up for the rest of the season, there was enough two-way action for Sherman to say, “It’s close to a break-even proposition for us.”
Soon after Jordan Spieth blew a five-shot lead on the back nine of the Masters — defying 1-25 odds in live wagering — the Spurs’ 48-game regular-season home win streak went up in smoke as the Warriors matched a record many of us thought never would be broken.
Here’s another surprise: It is documented in various stories that Marilyn Monroe had a higher IQ (168) than Albert Einstein (160). Believe it or not.
So we have learned in matters of celebrity IQ trivia, golf majors and NBA records to be leery of laying big prices on favorites and to avoid saying something has “no chance” of happening.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247