Even if Warriors lose, season a massive success despite expectation of 73

As if the pressure wasn’t on the Golden State Warriors for the first 81 games, it certainly is now.

Battling the burden of expectations as much as a Memphis team depleted by injuries, the Warriors know exactly the stakes of today’s game: Win and stand alone as the greatest regular-season team of all time.

The Dubs are exactly where they want and need to be, even if they say they didn’t fully expect getting here.

“I knew what [the record] was but you never really thought about it in perspective of anybody chasing it,” Stephen Curry said. “It was kind of that number that was out there that seemed invincible.”

Regardless of the deference to greatness they expressed at Tuesday’s practice, winning 73 was the team’s goal long before the players began openly admitting it in March.

From the outset, the Warriors were determined to maintain an edge: Taking the scorn from the Clippers and Cavaliers — who questioned the legitimacy of a championship won against teams suffering from injury — as motivation for winning 24 games straight. While many defending-champions laze through a victory lap in the early months of the season, the discussion of 73 for Golden State began then, according to the presumed back-to-back MVP.

The team’s attitude early on was, “’Well, maybe we can do it. We’re going to keep playing every night with the intention of winning as many games as possible,’ but it just sounded kind of ludicrous, 72-10, how much good play has to go into it,” Curry said. “We’re there now, 72-9, and we’ve got one more chance to beat it.”

With media attention at its apex, the most notable voice in the locker room, Draymond Green, softened his tone days after revealing a conversation with Michael Jordan. Jordan reportedly said he would hold Green personally accountable if the Warriors fall short today.

“It would have been cool to take care of the games we were supposed to take care of and have it already out of the way,” Green said. “The way this thing has played out, to be at home with one shot at it, it’s pretty amazing. You can’t not talk about it at this point. The whole world’s talking about it now. It’s everywhere. There’s no way to hide from it now. Honestly, realistically, I didn’t think it could be done.”

And maybe 73 can’t be done. Maybe the Warriors are defeated by another less-than-worthy opponent and disappoint the sold-out crowd at Oracle Arena primed to celebrate long into the night. (As they should, win or lose, if for nothing else than to get their money’s worth: On Tuesday, the cheapest seat available from the NBA’s official ticket reseller was $334.)

Even if the Dubs fall to the Grizzlies, they haven’t lost: By ruining the Spurs’ bid for home perfection on Saturday, the Champs solidified even footing with the 1995-96 Bulls, who set a record thought to be so untouchable it is regularly listed with Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak as the most unbeatable in sports.

And, if they do stall at 72, a little added motivation going into the playoffs could do this group well. After all, this is the team that already set the record for completing a regular season without losing back-to-back games.

Out of the heaps of nonsense Scottie Pippen and his ilk have recently shoveled onto the public — including an impossible-to-prove assertion the Bulls would sweep Golden State — there’s one statement that rings especially true today and for the weeks to come:

“72-10 don’t mean a thing without the ring.”

WARRIORS VS. THE GRIZZLIES THIS SEASON

Nov. 2: 119-69 — W

Curry: 30 pts., 10-16 FG

Green: 11 pts., 9 reb., 8 ast.

Nov. 11: 100-84 — W

Curry: 28 pts., 5 reb., 4 ast.

April 9: 100-99 — W

Curry: 17 pts., 9 reb., 8 ast.

Green: 23 pts. (10-14 FG), 11 reb., 4 ast., 3 blk.

MILESTONE WATCH

Stephen Curry, the first player to ever hit 300 3-pointers in a season and setting a new record with each he makes, is eight away from 400 this season.

He’s made at least eight 3s a total of 15 times this season, according to Basketball Reference.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(This is an updated version)

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