50 Down, 23 To Go For Warriors

MIAMI — Stephen Curry pumped a fist, wagged a finger and even gave a little shimmy with his shoulders.

Chalk up No. 50 for the Warriors. The increasingly pressing question is: Will Curry and the Champs be shimmying all the way to 73-9?

After becoming the fastest team in NBA history to 50 wins in a season with a topsy-turvy victory in Atlanta, the Warriors begin a back-to-back stretch in Florida tonight slightly ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who needed one more game to reach the milestone. Of course, that’s the team the Warriors are chasing for one of the league’s most iconic marks.

Seventy-two wins.

“It’s really cool,” Klay Thompson said. “Just being in the conversation with that Bulls team, it’s humbling and it’s surreal.”

The Warriors (50-5), who are expected to have new acquisition Anderson Varajeo in uniform against the Miami Heat, squandered a 23-point lead in the third quarter, actually falling behind Atlanta early in the fourth. But they bounced back, as they always seem to do, tightening up on defense and riding their dynamic guard duo to another triumph.

“We’re staying in the moment,” Curry said. “It’s a special group, and we understand the potential we have, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Fifty wins is great, but we’ve got to keep plugging away and staying hungry, because no one wants to talk about that in June.”

Indeed, a second straight championship is the only way to make this a truly successful season, but the pursuit of Chicago’s record — accomplished during the height of Michael Jordan’s six-titles-in-eight-years dynasty — has provided quite an intriguing side plot to the regular season.

On their last long road trip of the season, the Warriors have bounced back impressively from their worst loss of the season, a 137-105 drubbing at Portland last Friday. They knocked off the Clippers in Los Angeles the following night, then made the cross-country trek to Atlanta to face the struggling Hawks, who had the best record in the East a year ago but have slipped this season.

“We just seem to respond every time we get a loss,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Our guys are very competitive, so when we lose, they get angry and seem to rattle off a bunch of wins in a row. That’s a pretty good sign. We don’t have to motivate them much. They motivate themselves.”

The Warriors have three more games on their road trip, with Orlando the following night and Oklahoma City on Saturday.

If they get through that stretch unscathed, Chicago’s record of 72-10 will be very much in reach. Seventeen of their last 24 games are at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors are 24-0 this season. There are still two games left at San Antonio (47-9), which is also having a remarkable season and trails by just 3 1/2 games in the Western Conference standings, and two other tough road contests at Dallas and Memphis.

The other away games during that closing stretch are at Utah and in Los Angeles against the woeful Lakers.

Of course, the Warriors didn’t get to this point by looking too far down the road.

They’re having too much fun on the journey.

“We’re not complacent,” Curry said. “We’re trying to get better and find different ways to win games. We’re staying in the moment.”

Kerr insists his team never talks about Chicago’s record, or the little milestones along the way like 50 wins.

But it’s clear this team is doing everything possible to ensure it will be mentioned in the same conversations with MJ’s Bulls.

Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, who attended Monday’s game and stopped by the Warriors’ locker room afterward to offer congratulations, was hesitant to compare two remarkable squads.

“It’s a different style of game,” said Mutombo, who played against the Bulls when Jordan was in his prime. “It’s a different era.”

Yet, the big man knows he’s witnessing something special.

“I’m just so proud of them,” Mutombo said. “They’re wonderful to watch, very wonderful. I think they’ve made our league more [exciting] for the next generation. That’s what all the young people want to do — just look like Golden State.”

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