LOS ANGELES: The Golden State Warriors notched their record-equalling 72nd victory of the NBA season, beating the Spurs in San Antonio 92-86 in a Western Conference heavyweight clash.
The reigning NBA champion Warriors improved to 72-9, matching the league record for regular-season wins set by the 72-10 Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan in 1995-96.
The Warriors can break the record with a victory on Wednesday, when they conclude the regular-season against the Memphis Grizzlies at home in Oakland.
“We’ve got a great group of guys, that really sacrifice every single night,” Warriors star Stephen Curry, who scored 37 points, said of what it took to reach the milestone.
“We’re competitive, we’re hungry. We care about each other. I think we try to play the right way.”
The Warriors’ hopes of matching or exceeding the Bulls’ mark had dwindled with losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics this month.
Golden State eked out a 100-99 victory over the Grizzlies in Memphis on Saturday, but the clash with the Spurs, who were a perfect 39-0 at home this season going into the contest, was seen as a major hurdle.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr called it one of the team’s best wins of the season, as his players coped with the second night of a back-to-back in hostile territory.
“It was a true team win,” Kerr said. “Steph was just amazing and so was Draymond (Green). Particularly against the kind of defense that we saw, both guys were just brilliant.”
With that said, Kerr noted that the victory “means nothing come playoff time”.
San Antonio had won 48 straight regular-season games on their home floor dating back to last season, and the Warriors hadn’t won a regular-season game there since 1997.
With both teams playing tough defense it was a close game, but Golden State turned the tide in the fourth quarter.
Forward Harrison Barnes had three key baskets as the Warriors took a six-point lead. Curry and Klay Thompson helped the Warriors build their advantage to 90-79 with 1:34 remaining.
The Spurs pulled within four points in the closing seconds, but wouldn’t get any closer.
Fans in Houston were in full voice for visiting Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who his hurtling toward his final NBA game.
But Rockets guard James Harden didn’t have time for sentiment, scoring 40 points in a 130-110 victory over the Lakers that boosted Houston’s slim playoff hopes.
Harden scored half his points in the fourth quarter and added 13 assists to help the Rockets withstand a 35-point outburst from Bryant, who will retire after the final game of his 20th season on Wednesday.
“The jump shot was falling, my legs felt good, and you have nights like this,” Bryant said of a performance that turned back the clock.
Harden enjoyed matching up with an on-song Bryant one last time.
“He made some big shots, which he has been doing in his 20 years of playing,” Harden said. “It was an exciting game. It was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The Rockets are in ninth place in the Western Conference, one game behind Utah for the eighth and final berth.
The Jazz helped their cause with a 100-84 victory over the Nuggets in Denver and are one game behind seventh-placed Dallas, whose playoff push was slowed by a 98-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Indianapolis Pacers locked up the final Eastern Conference playoff berth with a 129-105 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Myles Turner led the Pacers with 28 points and 10 rebounds. George Hill added 18 points, five rebounds and four assists as Indiana reached the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. AFP