Even the NBA's best teams stumble sometimes

NEW YORK • The mighty Golden State Warriors lost on Wednesday night - all National Basketball Association (NBA) teams do.

But they did not just lose - they were trounced by 23 points at Dallas, and they played without their injured star, Stephen Curry.

The Warriors are 29-2 and remain strong favourites for the No. 1 seed and a repeat NBA title, but the team's sensational start had fans dreaming of even more. They are still on target to win 76 or 77 games, which would give them by far the best record in NBA history.

Could the blowout loss and the leg bruise to Curry threaten the Warriors' chance of becoming the best NBA team of all time? Looking at the rare big losses by the 10 best teams in history may provide a clue.

1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10)

The Bulls lost only one game by more than 10 points - a bizarre 32-point away blowout against the Knicks in March.

Two days after firing coach Don Nelson, the Knicks got 26 points from Patrick Ewing and outshot the Bulls, 53 to 36 per cent.

It was a fluke loss. In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Bulls cruised past the Knicks 4-1.

1996-97 Bulls (69-13)

The Bulls lost three of their final four games, including a 17-point loss to the Detroit Pistons, who raced to an early lead on torrid shooting.

With the season decided, the Bulls were not especially motivated to close the big gap.

1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (69-13)

A 16-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Lakers' worst of the season, also ended their record 33-game winning streak. Bucks' star centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, four seasons from becoming a Laker himself, had 39 points.

1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (68-13)

Their worst loss was also their first of the season, to the Boston Celtics by 18 points. John Havlicek and Sam Jones had 29 each for the Celtics. The Sixers went on to beat them 4-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

1972-73 Celtics (68-14)

A trip to New York in February resulted in a 32-point walloping by the Knicks. It was a sign of things to come; the Celtics are the first team on this list that did not win the championship, losing to the same opponents 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

2014-15 Warriors, 2006-07 Mavericks, 1999-2000 Lakers, 1991-92 Bulls, 1985-86 Celtics (all 67-15)

The worst losses for these teams ranged from 15 to 31 points. In particular, the Mavericks were blown out several times; they are also the only one in this group not to win the title.

Every elite team in NBA history suffered at least one blowout, though not always a 23-pointer as the Warriors just did.

Having a bad night, especially early or late in the season, seems to happen to everyone, though few of the teams had multiple big losses.

Of more concern to the Warriors than the big loss was the absence of Curry.

The stars of the top five winning teams, Michael Jordan for the Bulls, Wilt Chamberlain for the Lakers and the 76ers, and Dave Cowens for the Celtics, did not miss a game all season.

The stars of the next five teams missed no more than four games each.

Curry usually has been a durable player, but he missed much of the 2011-12 season with ankle problems.

Should he miss much more action this season, the Warriors' chances of a historic season would dim considerably.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'Even the NBA's best teams stumble sometimes'. Print Edition | Subscribe