The Golden State Warriors have the best record in the league right now, moving to 34-6 after destroying the Houston Rockets Wednesday. They led by as many as 30 points in the game and ended up winning by 13 after taking their foot off the gas in the final quarter.
This was nothing new. Of Golden State's 34 victories, 24 have come by double digits. As a result, the Warriors have one of the best point differentials in league history at the moment. Yes: league history.
The Warriors have an average margin of victory of +11.3 points points per game, well above the second-place Hawks, who come in a distant second with a +7.1 average. If that holds until the end of the season, the Warriors will become only the eighth team in history to finish with an average point differential of over 10.
The other seven teams? The 1970-71 and 1971-72 Bucks, the 1971-72 Lakers, the 1991-92, 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls and the 2007-08 Celtics. Six of those teams went on to win the championship; the only team that didn't was the 71-72 Bucks, who lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
|1971-72 Bucks||63-19||+11.16||Lost West Finals|
Margin of victory is often a good predictor of playoff success but is not a be-all and end-all stat. Of the last five champions, only the 2013-14 Spurs led the league in margin of victory. Sometimes, veteran teams will coast through the regular season, choosing rest and health over point differential.
Yet, as the above results show, a huge margin of victory does tend to signify a champion. The Warriors are the prohibitive favorite to win the title and will especially be so if they keep this up.
It's worth noting that Golden State has played the league's 10th-easiest schedule. They faced the Lakers three times -- one surprisingly resulting in a loss -- and the Timberwolves and 76ers one time each. They have played only eight back-to-backs and have 11 more coming. They have two more games against the Blazers, Grizzlies and Hawks -- elite teams that don't usually lose by big margins -- and seven combined games against the Clippers, Spurs and Suns, teams that have beaten them this year. It's possible their margin of victory comes down to a more normal number soon.
But for now, the Warriors should be thrilled about how their season is going. They have the best defense in the league, the third-best offense, an MVP candidate in Stephen Curry and a historically good point differential.
No matter what Dwight Howard says, they are the best team in the league and it's not even close.