Thursday, May 03, 2007


The Warriors played the Mavericks tonight in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs. Going into the game, the eighth-seeded Warriors were leading the first-seeded Mavericks 3-2 in the series, and they won big tonight, 111-86, to close out probably the biggest upset in NBA history. It was, in fact, a historic upset; no eighth seed has ever upset a first seed in a seven-game series before.

I'm really glad that the entire country got to see this team play on national television. Things were looking pretty bleak for the Warriors back in early February; we were in Vegas around then and the line for the Warriors to win the championship was something like 80:1. The Indiana trade had just happened, but Harrington and Jackson hadn't quite adjusted to Nelson's system yet, and then Davis and Richardson got injured, and it seemed like the Warriors were in for yet another losing season. Then, everyone got healthy, the new lineup started to click, and the team started to play the way they're playing now; high-octane small ball, fueled with almost too much emotion (those technicals could have been much worse), with players hustling for every loose ball, and scoring tons of points on crazy fast breaks. They ended on a 9-of-10 tear to wrench the final playoff spot away from the Clippers on the last day of the season.

It's funny, when the Warriors started their first playoff series in thirteen years, the commentators were pronouncing their names wrong (it's Mick-KAEL, and BEE-drinzh), and calling them "pesky" on defense. But, they're a fun team to watch, and I think a lot of basketball fans all over the country were won over by the Warriors' exciting style of play (they're like, the poor man's Suns!), plus the whole Cinderella-underdog setup. Honestly, sometimes when they go on the fast break, it's so pretty I want to laugh and cry at the same time. Then again, sometimes they try to get too clever and turn the ball over instead. Didn't happen tonight.

A lot has been said during this series about the fans at the Oakland Coliseum, or as they call it now, Oracle Arena. I only went to one or two games back in the 80's and 90's, so I don't remember what the atmosphere was like then, but in the last six years since I moved back to the Bay Area, I've been going to a couple of games a year. Up until recently, I never thought the Warriors' home court advantage was all that great. In fact, I distinctly remember several games when the fans booed the Warriors, and started streaming out towards the parking lot during the third quarter. I guess that's what happens when the home team sucks for years on end.

Well, that's definitely changed by now; I think things started to turn around when Baron Davis joined the team. During the last two years, Oakland fans have showed a lot of support, even while the team missed the playoffs last year and barely made it this year. And now, with the team playing so well in the playoffs against the top-ranked Mavericks, the fans have upped the noise to another level. My roommate and her boyfriend have season tickets, and they've seen several good wins at the Arena this season, but it wasn't until after Game 4 (an instant classic, I think) that they decided to bring earplugs to future games. Apparently the crowd noise now borders on painful. Those of us who were watching from home today were amused when TNT kept adjusting the sound settings on the broadcast every time the Warriors made a shot. That was some pretty amazing fan support, right there.

I can't talk about sports these days without mentioning the Sports Guy, so here are some of his words on the subject, from earlier today:

These things don't happen at Warriors and Knicks games because they're the only two places left with old-school fans, fans who have been coming to games for 30-40 years, fans of all colors, fans who genuinely understand basketball and every nuance that comes with it. They don't need a giant video screen to help them out; hell, they don't want the giant video screen to help them out. These are the fans who recognize a beautiful pass as it's happening, not after it happens, simply because they love basketball and see the same angles players see. These are the fans who instinctively understand stuff like, "Mickael Pietrus just threw down a ridiculous putback; I'm going to stand and keep cheering for an extra 30 seconds because he's a young kid and we need to keep pumping him up so he'll do it again."


As for Warriors fans, it's a little more simple: They play in Oakland and have the most eclectic mix of fans in the league, so their home games have a different feel, almost like an upscale version of Rucker Park. Earlier this year, my wife and I were trying to determine whether we wanted to leave L.A. and live somewhere else for a few years (just to mix things up), and during the course of the discussions, she brought up the Bay Area. Well, you know why I couldn't live there? Because of the Warriors. If we moved there, I'd end up purchasing Warriors season tickets; inevitably I would be compromised by those unique crowds, placing me in a precarious sports bigamy predicament since I'm utterly and completely disgusted by the Celtics' front office and ownership right now. It would be like a guy who hates his wife hiring the hottest 20-year-old Danish au pair on the planet. Just a bad idea all the way around.

What does this have to do with Game 6 of the Warriors-Mavs series tonight? In the words of Russell Hammond, everything. I don't believe the 2007 Dallas Mavericks have the collective heart to prevail in Oakland, not with the Warriors' fans smelling blood and providing one of the all-time electric/rabid/emotional/crazed atmospheres in recent sports history. As good as they were in Game 3 and Game 4, the fans will be better tonight. They will rise to the occasion. They will. I am convinced. They have been waiting for a night like this for 30 long years. Literally.

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