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Comparing 1996 Bulls to 2016 Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are underdogs to go undefeated at home this season, and that looks like a safe bet to make, based on some comparative analysis of the 2016 Warriors and the 1996 Chicago Bulls, whose record they are chasing.

Stephen Curry and his band of merry three-point bombers also appear to be a safe bet to break that 20-year record of 72 wins, orchestrated by his NBA MVP predecessor Michael Jordan.

Online sportsbook Bovada has the Warriors as a +250 underdog to run the table at home, meaning a $100 bet pays out a $250 profit. But some striking similarities between Chicago’s 1996 game logs and the 2016 Warrior schedule indicate one and possibly two home losses for Golden State.

However, the same analysis points to only three losses for the rest of the season, which would place Golden State with a 73-9 record, one victory better than Jordan’s Bulls.

Losses after March 7

Chicago lost four times after that date. The game logs here show the losses:

March 10, 1996 @ New York

March 24, 1996 @ Toronto

April 8, 1996 vs. Charlotte

April 20, 1996 vs. Indiana (the Bulls rested their starters, even backup guard Steve Kerr – the current Warrior coach – played 22 minutes, Dennis Rodman still managed 15 rebounds in a half)

Golden State hasn’t lost once yet after that date, but there are three solid candidates for losses based on some of the other data detailed below. (We’ll get to which games the Warriors will lose a bit later).

Consecutive losses

Chicago lost consecutive games February 4 and February 6 at Denver and Phoenix. Bovada posted an NBA prop on whether the Warriors will lose consecutive games this season and it’s a strong ‘NO’ line at -600. If you think they will, it’s a +400 payout (4-1 odds). However, in probing similarities between these two seasons, Golden State did nearly lose consecutive games, sandwiching losses January 13 at Denver and January 16 at Detroit around a victory. So if consecutive losses are hallmarks of each team’s historic season, this one almost matches perfectly.

Home Losses

The 1996 Bulls lost twice at home, both times by a single point, both in April as the season wound down and as they started resting a bit before the playoffs. Naturally, this was also the time that opponents were taking their best shot at derailing their perfect home season, so a few factors work against a perfect season for Golden State.

The Bulls lost April 8 at home to the Hornets, despite 40 points from Jordan. The main reason the Hornets won – not because of their middling 39-37 record at the time - was a shooting guard who scored 19 points off the bench. His name was Dell Curry, who happens to be Steph Curry’s dad.

If the Warriors are going to replicate the two-home-loss side of this ledger, we found the two most likely spots where they will happen. It also means that perfect-home-record prop is a good bet to make on the ‘no’ side.

Back to Back situations

Chicago’s 10 losses included four games on the first night of back-to-back games and two games on the second night of back-to-back games. So far in 2015-16, the Warriors have lost four times on the first of back-to-back nights and once on the second night. If this comparison angle holds up, then the Warriors will lose one more time on the second night of back-to-back games. More on that later as well.

Calendar Proximity

A final oddity is how close on the calendar some of the losses suffered by the 1996 Bulls correlate to losses by the 2016 Warriors. Three of the Bulls losses happened within four days of Warrior losses. Another was within a single day of a big holiday (the Bulls losing on Boxing Day at Indiana, the Warriors losing the day before New Year’s Eve at Dallas).

For example:

Bulls lossesWarriors losses
March 10 at New YorkMarch 6 at Lakers
February 23 at MiamiFebruary 19 at Portland
December 26 at IndianaDecember 30 at Dallas

Using this calendar proximity theory, and combining the other factors, we are prepared to definitively predict the three remaining losses on the Warriors schedule for 2016.

Conclusion – the Warriors will lose these games:

Based on all this data and assuming the 2016 Warrior season closely resembles the 1996 Bulls season right to the end, we can make some solid assumptions. Here are the games the Warriors will lose, check out the Warriors game log here.

March 23 at home to Los Angeles Clippers

This will end the Warriors perfect home season and will mark the first of two home losses on the year. The Warriors choked bad against the Lakers and this is a perfect spot for LA’s other team to drop a loss on the Warriors. The Clips defend the 3-point line pretty well (Top 10) and will be throwing caution to the wind in a final road game before returning for some home games. They are still awaiting Blake Griffin’s return. This game matches the calendar proximity theory, as the Bulls lost one day later, March 24, in an upset by the Toronto Raptors back in 1996. Damon Stoudamire scored 30 for the Raps that day, a 109-108 win.

April 7 at home to San Antonio

Home loss #2 happens here to the Spurs, who are by far the best team in the league defending the 3-pointer, both in terms of percentage and in 3-pointers made. This also meshes with the calendar proximity theory, as the Bulls lost April 8 at home to Charlotte, as well as marking the first loss in the month of April, halfway to the Bulls total of two.

April 10 at San Antonio

The Spurs are also working on a perfect home record and they will get another victory here. Bovada has them at -800 to run the table at home, but the odds will be much shorter if they are still clean by April 10. This game fits multiple facets of the Bulls comparison: it’s the second last game of the season, which the Bulls lost to Indiana; It’s the second night of back-to-back games, which would mark the second time the Warriors lose in that situation, matching the number of times the Bulls lost with no rest; it’s very close on the calendar to a 1996 Bulls loss (April 8 vs. the Hornets); it would be a second loss in the month of April, halfway to the Bulls total of two.

You’re welcome…

Will the Warriors break the record for most regular season wins?

Odds as of March 17 at Bovada

  • YES -300
  • NO +200
Will the Warriors finish the season undefeated at home?

Odds as of March 17 at Bovada

  • YES +200
  • No -300
Will the Warriors lose back-to-back games in the regular season?

Odds as of March 17 at Bovada

  • YES +400
  • No -600