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Golden State's Run Among Best Ever

Associated Press

They could outrun teams like the Showtime Lakers and outgun them like Michael Jordan's Bulls — and the Golden State Warriors had a more dominant postseason than either.

Their run was better than anything Bill Russell or Larry Bird did in Boston, so they should be able to claim a spot on the list of the NBA's best teams ever.

Golden State finished the playoffs 16-1 when they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. They ended with the highest winning percentage ever in the NBA postseason and won 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the major North American sports.

"This is history. We're going down as one of the best teams ever, and that's a special thing you cannot take away from us," reserve Andre Iguodala said.

They weren't so Golden in their lone blemish, a Game 4 loss when they played some of the poorest defense in Finals history to spoil a perfect postseason.

But throw in a 65-17 regular season, and the Warriors went 81-18 after Kevin Durant joined them, an impressive start to finish after their collapse in last year's Finals that prevented them from winning three straight championships.

Golden State plays under a set of offensive-friendly rules, and critics said they wouldn't have stood up to the rugged play of the past. But the Warriors also had shooting that would have made them the envy of even some of the toughest teams of all-time.

A list of some teams, now including the Warriors, who have permanent places on the list of NBA greats.

1961-62 Celtics

Team record: 60-20

Playoffs record: 8-6

Future Hall of Famers on team: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Tom "Satch" Sanders, Tom Heinsohn.

All-Stars that season: Cousy, Russell, Sam Jones, Heinsohn, coach Red Auerbach.

What made them great: With Cousy controlling a powerful offense and Russell patrolling the paint for the league's leading defense, the Celtics outscored teams by more than nine points per game while going 23-5 and 11-3 on neutral courts — yes, NBA teams played neutral-site games back then. Even with all their talent it wasn't easy, as Boston needed seven games to beat Philadelphia in the Eastern Division finals and then seven more in the NBA Finals — the last going to overtime — to beat Los Angeles.

1970-71 Bucks

Team record: 66-16

Playoffs record: 12-2

Future Hall of Famers on team: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson.

All-Stars that season: Abdul-Jabbar, Robertson, coach Larry Costello.

What made them great: Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson might be two of the top five players in NBA history, and they were on the same sensational team that season. Milwaukee clobbered teams by 12.2 points per game and increased that to an NBA-best 14.5 per game in the postseason. Abdul-Jabbar was the league's MVP and scoring champion, averaging 31.7 points.

1971-72 Lakers

Team record: 69-13

Playoffs record: 12-3

Future Hall of Famers on team: Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Pat Riley, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich

All-Stars that season: West, Goodrich, Chamberlain, coach Bill Sharman

What made them great: Baylor retired early in the season, then the Lakers launched an NBA-record, 33-game winning streak. Led the league with 121 points per game while outscoring opponents by 12.3 per night behind their potent backcourt of Goodrich and West, who each averaged nearly 26 points to rank in the league's top six. Chamberlain's 19.2 rebounds per game topped the league.

1982-83 Sixers

Team record: 65-17

Playoffs record: 12-1

Future Hall of Famers on team: Julius Erving, Moses Malone

All-Stars that season: Malone, Erving, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, coach Billy Cunningham

What made them great: Just missed following through on Malone's "Fo', fo', fo"' vow while delivering Erving's long-awaited first NBA championship. Malone averaged 24.5 points and a league-leading 15.3 rebounds while winning his second straight MVP award and made his boast that the 76ers would sweep every series in four games. They came close, dropping a game to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals but then sweeping the Lakers in the Finals.

1985-86 Celtics

Team record: 67-15

Playoffs record: 15-3

Future Hall of Famers on team: Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton

All-Stars that season: Bird, Parish, McHale, coach K.C. Jones

What made them great: Set an NBA record by going 40-1 at home during the last of Bird's three straight MVP seasons. The original Big Three of Bird, Parish and McHale started in the frontcourt, and former MVP Walton backed them up and won the Sixth Man of the Year award. Overcame a 63-point performance from Michael Jordan in a first-round sweep of Chicago, but had to settle for beating Houston in the NBA Finals after the Rockets knocked off the hated Lakers in the West finals.

1986-87 Lakers

Team record: 65-17

Playoffs record: 15-3

Future Hall of Famers on team: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy

All-Stars that season: Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Worthy, coach Pat Riley

What made them great: The Showtime Lakers averaged 117.8 points on 51.6 percent shooting, with Johnson leading the league in assists and winning his first MVP award. He punctuated that season with his famed "Baby Hook" to win Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Boston, giving the Lakers a 3-1 lead before they finished off their rivals two games later.

1995-96 Bulls

Team record: 72-10

Playoffs record: 15-3

Future Hall of Famers on team: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman

All-Stars that season: Jordan, Pippen, coach Phil Jackson

What made them great: A team that was on a vengeance all season after losing in the playoffs in 1995 when Jordan returned from baseball, they became the first team to win 70 games. Jordan led the league in scoring and Rodman in rebounding, and their three stars were perhaps the league's best defensive players at their positions, making it nearly impossible to score against the Bulls at times.

2001-02 Lakers

Team record: 56-26

Playoffs record: 15-1

Future Hall of Famers on team: Shaquille O'Neal, (eventually) Kobe Bryant

All-Stars that season: Bryant, O'Neal

What made them great: With a dominant inside-outside combination of O'Neal and Bryant, the Lakers stormed to their second of three straight titles, sweeping three 50-win teams along the way in the Western Conference playoffs. They dropped the NBA Finals opener to league MVP Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers, then took the next four games.

2016-17 Warriors

Team record: 65-17

Playoffs record: 16-1

Future Hall of Famers on team: To be determined.

All-Stars that season: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, coach Steve Kerr

What made them great: An explosive perimeter attack meant they could score from way beyond the basket, while the versatile Green's defense allowed them to play small-ball lineups without getting hurt on the boards. They finished one victory short of the NBA's first perfect postseason, but bounced back from their Game 4 loss to Cleveland in the NBA Finals with another high-scoring performance.

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