If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And the ghost of the past.
Right now, the 1995-96 Bulls are wiping the floor with the 2015-16 Warriors, mostly because Golden State has lacked a tough, talented player who won’t take “no’’ for an answer. Someone like the guy with the statue in front of the United Center.
In the regular season, the Warriors met the challenge. No matter which side you take in the Great Debate over the 2015-16 Warriors and the 1995-96 Bulls, you can’t argue with the numbers. This Golden State team won a record 73 regular-season games, that Bulls team won 72.
That’s the end of the story only if you like your tales three-quarters finished.
The Warriors trail the Thunder 3-1 in the Western Conference finals after a 118-94 loss Tuesday night. In the last two games, Oklahoma City has outscored Golden State by 52 points. Very, very un-MJ-like.
It’s not over for the Warriors, but it looks grim. They looked fatigued as they chased the Bulls’ regular-season victory record, and they haven’t looked anywhere close to midseason form in the postseason. Stephen Curry has dealt with injuries, and Draymond Green has played like a frustrated brat.
The 1995-96 Bulls went 15-3 in the postseason, beating Seattle in six games in the Finals. They were 10-0 at home in the playoffs. That’s called finishing strong.
Michael Jordan was the best player in the NBA that season, the way he was the best player almost every season he played. But he was also the toughest and the meanest player, and if a 33-year-old man can be called an old cuss, then he was an old cuss. That nastiness, that force of will meant that there was no way the Bulls were going to fall down on the job. He wouldn’t stand for it.
The Warriors are missing someone like that right now. There’s a Silicon Valley-type of collegiality to this team, which is fun to behold. The players share the ball so much you’d think they were multiplying loaves. There doesn’t seem to be any ego involved.
Maybe there needs to be.
Could be it’s too late.