Random Rumblings: April 11th

A wild weekend in sports catapults us into a surely historic week. Kobe Bryant retires after his final game Wednesday night. At the same time, the Warriors will shoot for their 73rd win, which would break the single-season record. The NBA playoff seedings will also be set, and we're getting ever closer to the NFL draft. However before all that, we look back at a heck of a sports weekend.

History (Good)

The Warriors have reached the thought unreachable star of 72 wins, tying the '95-'96 Bulls' record for most in an NBA season. Those Bulls also entered their 81st game with 71 wins, but they lost. The Warriors became the first team to win in San Antonio all season.

The game was rather remarkable considering the Warriors were on the second night of a back-to-back. Golden State beat Memphis in Memphis on Saturday night in game that went down to the final buzzer. The Dubs, including Stephen Curry, haven't had their shooting rhythm as of late. Their numbers are still good overall during the past few weeks, thanks to a few outbursts including a 136 point effort in Portland, but watching them hasn't quite been the same.

That continued in the first half in San Antonio as they scored a season low 35 points. In the second half, it all came back. Curry went bananas in the 3rd quarter, scored 37 points on the night and their chances at sitting alone in history are alive. The reason they were able to overcome the atrocious first half of offense? They were tied at the half, holding the Spurs to the same output. 

As you could imagine with a team that is assured one of the two best regular seasons ever, they're far from a one-trick pony. They're 5th in defensive rating after finishing first a year ago. Draymond Green might win defensive player of the year (it'll be him or Kawhi Leonard). The Warriors sport two of the league's ten best defensive lineups that have played over 100 minutes together (based on defensive rating) and neither of those are its "death lineup" of Green, Curry, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson which is the league's best lineup in terms of net rating. 

The natural discussion as we wait for the playoffs isn't to appreciate what Golden State is doing, but to compare it to what the Bulls did. Who would win a hypothetical seven game series? Who knows. It's impossible to know, which makes for a fun discussion. There were different rules and the two teams play very different styles. I would tend to lean towards Golden State because of their propensity to hit threes, but the Bulls were absolutely loaded and had that MJ fella, so I certainly wouldn't have the confidence to bet on it.

In terms of the accomplishment though, I think it's fair to point out that Golden State has done this in one of the golden eras of NBA basketball. The league is so deep right now with star players and great teams. The Spurs are having an all-time season that is being completely overshadowed by the Warriors. The Thunder are likely going to have two players who deservingly finish top 5 in MVP voting. The Eastern Conference is finally back too, as the 8-seed there will finish with a better record than the 8-seed in the West for the first time since 1999. 

I'm not old enough to intelligently remember the league in '95-'96 so I'm not going to put what the Bulls did into similar context. It wouldn't be fair. Just know what the Warriors have done is extraordinary.

History (Bad)

Jordan Spieth did not have a Warriors-like weekend. The 22 year old had a complete and utter meltdown at the 12th hole in The Masters final round, and it cost him his second straight green jacket. 

It was such an odd outcome because the 30-minute, one-hole blunder so overwhelmingly decided the outcome of a four day event. Even if Spieth bogeys the hole instead of quadruple bogeying, he's in a playoff (if the rest of the tournament plays out the same). The seven he threw up on number twelve literally decided the tournament. 

It is likely why Spieth was so distraught afterwards. It's not just the great shots that make professional golfers great, it's the ability to do damage control. Hit a bad shot? Save it with the next one. Spieth followed a bad shot with a worse one and then did it again. He actually did some damage control by getting up-and-down out of the bunker to net the quad, or it could've been even worse.

What I don't get is the narrative today that "how Spieth responds will define his career." Well no kidding. If he stinks for the rest of his life, that's gonna define his career. If he bounces back, people will marvel at his ability to put failure behind him. That's all great, but let's not pretend like this hasn't happened before.

Rory McIlroy had the 54 hole lead at Augusta in 2014 before shooting a final round 80 and losing the tournament. He came back and blasted the field at the US Open to win the very next major. Jack Nicklaus's record 18 majors are made even more remarkable by the fact that he finished second 19 times. You don't think there were a few close calls and heart-breakers in there? 

Spieth will be fine. He's 22. He's already won multiple majors. His game is perfect for Augusta and he'll be the favorite there next year so long that he's healthy. He'll probably win there again. Yesterday's performance will hurt and it'll probably hurt forever. No matter how many he wins, he'll know it always should've been one more, but that doesn't mean he'll crumble into a heap of emotion and forget how to play golf.

Credit also to Danny Willett, who still had to go out and win it. He made sure to make it difficult for Spieth to catch him down the stretch and, in the end, did enough to win comfortably. That capped off a pretty amazing week for him that started with the birth of his first child. The picture of the baby in the green jacket is going to be pretty epic. Also, his brother is pretty great.

No More Bowling

The NCAA announced a three year freeze on adding new bowl games Monday morning, which was surely met with applause around the country. Three losing teams played in post-season games last year, which is a bit ridiculous considering they are supposed to be a reward for a stellar season.

Largely I'm in favor of having a large number of bowl games because they do mean a lot to the players and they really aren't hurting anyone. I didn't feel that way before going to the 2009 New Orleans Bowl and seeing MTSU win it. For a small school, it was a big deal. The players had a solid season, took advantage of the opportunity and walked away with memories they'll never forget.

That's always stuck with me, but there is a limit considering it's supposed to be a reward and the NCAA is long past that limit. We don't need to go back to an era where only the best of the best get to play in the post-season, but there's certainly a happy medium before you get to losing teams participating. It's probably farther back down the path than we've traveled, but at least for the next three years we won't be traveling any further.

Read(s) of the day:

I'm going to start adding some of the enjoyable things I've read to the ends of these random rumblings columns. I read a lot of stuff. Some of it is really good. So why not share: