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From supreme confidence to heartbreak

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Warriors fans react to a missed shot as they watch the Golden State Warriors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 7 of the NBA Finals during a viewing party at Luka’s Taproom and Lounge in downtown Oakland. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The beer was flowing, the dance team entertained the crowd and the anthem was sung loudly before the game.

Fans packed the seats in Oracle Arena for Game 3, when they hoisted signs over their heads and cheered the Warriors during the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But there was one thing missing from the court: the Warriors.

More than 13,000 Warriors fans paid the $20 admission fee to enjoy the game at a viewing party hosted by the team at their home arena, with proceeds benefitting the Warriors Community Foundation.

For some, it was a chance to cheer on their team and still experience the excitement of gameday at Oracle.

“The experience in general is pretty cool. You can’t really explain it to other people if they’ve never been,” Jodilyn Palino of Dublin said as she dined with her family on fries and chicken strips in the club level of Oracle a few hours before tipoff, all four of them clothed in blue and gold.

It was also a family affair for longtime Warriors fan Tammy Coleman-Primas, who came to watch the game with her niece and daughter.

“It’s really beautiful,” Coleman-Primas said of the gathering of fans who led their own cheers and shouted with joy for every bucket.

Even as the Cavaliers’ lead grew, the fans’ optimism didn’t wane.

“I’m not worried,” said Kaitlyn Patterson of Dublin during halftime intermission. “We’ve been down before and came back. They’ll do it again.”

Across the bay, in The City two days later, the Recreation and Park Department hosted a watch party of its own for Game 4. A few hundred fans withstood moderate winds to watch the game on a big screen in front of City Hall, which was lit in blue and gold lights after sunset.

“This is a time when we all get to come together,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of Rec and Park. “The people that are here are from all different parts of our city, different backgrounds, all doing something together, which is rooting for the Warriors.”

Among the loudest fans rooting for the Dubs were a group of women from The City who were undoubtedly the life of the party.

“We have so much pride for the Warriors. We’ve watched all the games, we all group together and watch them all as a family,” Jenessa Smith said.

Smith and several of her friends stood near the front of the crowd, jumping and cheering louder than the rest. They performed one of Steph Curry’s pregame dances every time he made a 3-pointer, chastised the referees, and shouted cheers, all without taking their eyes off the ball. Other fans standing nearby even asked the girls to pose for photos with them before the game’s end.

Raquel Manzares said that’s exactly why she and her friends came to Civic Center to share their enthusiasm for the Dubs.

“We just wanted to feel the love. It’s San Francisco, the home of the Warriors. We’re back where it started.”

Even as the Warriors allowed the series to drag to a Game 7, the dedication and optimism of their fans didn’t wane. At Kezar Pub, every table in the house was occupied by Warriors fans in head-to-toe blue and gold more than an hour before tipoff.

Bartender Alan Joyce was excited to be part of the excitement of a championship-deciding game.

“We really try to help people who can’t go to the game feel like it’s the next best thing,” Joyce said as fans standing and seated around him waved gold rally towels — distributed by pub staff — as the Warriors were introduced on screen.

Joyce and his fellow bartenders and servers whirred calmly amongst the crowded bar, deftly dodging the flying towels swirling around their heads. (And gaining bonus points for muting the TV during the oft-repeated Bon Jovi DirecTV commercial).

“For us it’s busy, busy, busy,” Joyce said about the game day. “But it’s not about money — it’s about winning.”

Hopes remained high as the game wore on, with fans alternating between loudly cheering every Golden State basket and taunting the Cavs — with the loudest boos reserved for eventual Finals MVP LeBron James.

Fervent support later turned to disappointed sighs and shouts of disbelief as Cleveland held off the Warriors and heartbreak appeared imminent. The once raucous crowd fell silent, staring solemnly at the screens as the Cavaliers rushed the court to celebrate their win.

Dub Nation dejectedly filed out of the pub and the scene return to normal: dozens of San Franciscans stood on sidewalks, noses pointed down toward their phones, waiting for an Uber and checking the Giants score.

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