The Golden State Warriors had the best regular season in league history last year. They also failed to win the title, in no small part because Stephen Curry suffered a playoff injury and they couldn't close out the Cleveland Cavaliers after going up 3-1 in the series.
General Manager Bob Myers and head coach Steve Kerr believe that the two are related. Thus, they appear determined not to make the same mistake next year.
“The last two years I think have taught all of us within the organization that, everybody says it’s a marathon, but it really is,” Myers said on Thursday, according to the Mercury News. “We realized last year that mile 24 — I haven’t run a marathon, maybe some of you have — but they say that once you hit mile 20 or 21, the last five miles are the worst. And I think we learned last year that you gotta have something at mile 24, gotta have something at mile 25. I think we all have to take, us and the organization, have to take the approach that it’s a long road. We gotta have some juice.”
Kerr seemed aware that resting would be the thing to do at the time, but the players didn't want to do it. This season, he's making it clear that the single-season wins record won't be a concern at all.
"We don’t care how many games we win as long as we win enough to be in a great position,” Kerr said, according to the Mercury News. "In the playoffs you obviously want the home court, you want the 1 seed, we love that. But it makes zero difference to me how many wins we get. Last year, we’re very proud of our record. But we’d rather have the banner that isn’t hanging over there. So as great of an accomplishment as 73 was, it’s still about winning the ring."
The Warriors' dream regular season had a cost. They put a premium on winning 73 games, but had to spend a lot of energy to do it. Both Curry and Draymond Green ranked in the top 20 in the league in minutes played despite Golden State clinching its playoff spot in February. Even after they had clinched the top seed with three games to go, all the starters continued to play. Four of them were on the court for over 30 minutes a game while chasing that 73rd win.
That stretch included a road back-to-back in Memphis and San Antonio, which is one of the most likely scenarios in which injuries occur, according to a recent article by ESPN's Tom Haberstroh:
"Back-to-backs alone are not associated with greater instances of in-game injury, but back-to-backs that are played on the road are significant predictors of in-game injury, generating 3.5 times the injury rate as those played at home."
No one got hurt on that stretch for the Warriors, but the fact that everyone played shows the different approach they took compared to the team that beat them in the finals. While Golden State allowed its stars to play, the Cavaliers were giving LeBron James plenty of rest for the past two years. That allowed him to be at his best in the finals despite a heavy minutes load.
"In that 2014-15 season,[James] went on an impromptu two-week break in Miami in the middle of the season, missing eight straight games in which the Cavs won only once,” Haberstroh writes. “This past season, he skipped six games to rest, the same number of games that the entire Golden State Warriors did for the entire season en route to a record-breaking 73 wins."
It's impossible to prove that all that wear-and-tear costed the Warriors the title, but their general manager and coach seem to think it might have been a contributing factor. That's reason enough to expect the stars to rest more in 2106-17.