Stephen Curry Leads Warriors In Record-Shattering Week

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And as you know, I live every week to say time for sports.

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SIMON: Talk about finishing strong, the NBA regular season ended this week. And in virtually the same hour, the Golden State Warriors hit a new record for wins - 73 wins to nine losses. And Kobe Bryant ended his career with the LA Lakers by scoring 60 points. They needed them all, too, as I remember. The playoffs begin today.

Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: By the way, Ron Fournier is still in the studio. The Pistons are in the playoffs, right? He's a big Detroit fan.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely, Ron (laughter).

RON FOURNIER: How about...

GOLDMAN: How about that...

FOURNIER: How about those Wings?

GOLDMAN: ...First-round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers?

FOURNIER: Yeah, that's not going to go as well as the Wings series is going to.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: And the Wings made the playoffs - you said...

FOURNIER: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think 25 straight years.

GOLDMAN: Oh, you've got me on that one.

SIMON: Oh, all right, OK. All right. We'll defer to Ron's expertise on this.

Tom, I want to ask you what a lot of people are wondering about, OK? If the 2016 Golden State Warriors coached by Steve Kerr, with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green - if they played the 1996 Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a guy named Steve Kerr, who'd win?

GOLDMAN: Who'd win? Well, we should remind people that it was those Bulls that the Warriors topped this week by one victory. The Bulls had the best record up until this week. You know, Scott, people actually have analyzed this. They figured out how to make comparisons...

SIMON: Analyze? I've been losing sleep over it. But go ahead.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) They've figured out how to make comparisons even though the teams are 20 years apart and factoring in that the Warriors are doing their thing in a kinder, gentler and - old-timers would say - a weenier league.

And according to analysis, the Bulls have an edge. They were bigger and more physical and better defensively. They had Dennis Rodman, as you mentioned, and he was a rebounding marvel. They had a guy named Michael Jordan who was so intensely competitive, his ability to, you know, to will his team to victory could be a deciding factor. My favorite answer, though, comes from Steve Kerr, who, as you mentioned, was/is a part of both teams. He told SFGate if the two teams played each other, there's no question we could be us, and they could beat them. There you go.

SIMON: Oh, boy. I'm not sure I get...

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: But Steve Kerr's a brilliant man, so I'm sure it means something.

GOLDMAN: Very brilliant...

SIMON: Remember the New England Patriots who went undefeated and then lost the Super Bowl?

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: This regular-season record will be a weight around the necks of the Warriors unless they win another championship. Do you see any team being able stop them?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. I should say first - let's not discount what the Warriors did last year. They have a championship. And then this two-season stretch - a title and then validating it with this romp through the league - that's a meaningful achievement by itself.

But yes, they want to win. Can anyone stop them? You know, it seems like we were just asking that question about the mighty UConn women's basketball team. And the answer was a resounding no with them. They were so dominant. I think the answer with the Warriors is probably no. The difference, of course, there are teams that could threaten the Warriors - teams like San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland - sorry, Ron, not Detroit, but maybe in a few years.

SIMON: Thanks for mentioning Cleveland, though.

GOLDMAN: In a best-four-out-of-seven series, your best team will almost always win. And the Warriors have shown this season - and last - they are the best. And I think, you know, we should say the pressure of barely getting the regular season record helps them in the postseason. The Warriors went through some really nervous moments and had to dig deep a number of times to get to 73 wins. And that should help.

SIMON: I've got to ask you a Steph Curry question, OK?

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: Last year, he made 286 3-pointers. (Laughter) This season, he made 402. And I've got to laugh because it's absolutely incredible. Is he transforming basketball with the 3-point shot the way Babe Ruth and all of his home runs transformed baseball in the 1920s?

GOLDMAN: Interesting question. You know, the 3-point shot had been a big deal for some time - a number of years before Steph Curry came and just started obliterating records. But I think what he is doing - yes, I think it's transforming. It's setting a new standard.

You know, to talk about a baseball and basketball comparison, the data driven website FiveThirtyEight said that Steph Curry getting more than 400 3-pointers this season is akin to someone hitting over 100 home runs in a season, so just to put that in perspective. It's astounding.

SIMON: Well, we're going to have several week - playoffs go on for about nine months, so we're going to have lots of time to talk about this.

NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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