It was Steph. It was defense. It was Shaun. It was the crowd. It was bedlam. It was the Warriors at their finest, Oracle at its noisiest, and basketball at its most hectic, frantic pace, sending Northern California into a Golden State of euphoria and the defending champions to the NBA finals a second-straight year.
By all rights, and most odds, the wonderful, unorthodox, irrepressible Dubs, shouldn’t be there. Shouldn’t even have been in that hysterical seventh game Monday night, in which showing the courage and remarkable distance shooting skill which have become their trademarks, they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 96-88.
They were down three games to one. One more defeat and the season would end up lying by the curb in tatters. But they never had one more defeat.
They lost the opener at home. They were trashed by OKC the next two on the road. Fewer than four percent of teams in that hole have ever been able to climb out. But the Warriors are special. They won the sixth game Saturday night, as Klay Thompson made everything from Tulsa to Timbuktu. And then Monday, after falling behind by 13, after scoring a paltry 42 points in the first half — don’t they usually get that many in a quarter? — the Warriors played like, well, Warriors.
The burst. The back-breaker. The few moments — to be exact, the 2 minutes, 55 seconds — of hysteria and Curry jumpers, when they blew back from an eight-point deficit to a three-point lead midway through a resounding third quarter, was what the Dubs needed and the crowd demanded.
“Warriors, warriors,” was their chant, booming against the walls in waves of sound. And from the court came a response. Shutdown defense (OK, according to OKC coach Billy Donovan the Thunder got good shots that didn’t end up very well), OKC scoring only 12 points the third quarter.
It was a game-changer. It was a playoff changer. Again, the Warriors will face the Cavaliers in the NBA finals.
“I think that’s where our crowd really came into play,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of when and how the Dubs swept into a lead they held forever. “The first half you could just hear the groans. You could hear the disappointment with the fans, and we weren’t giving them anything to cheer for. I thought Shaun Livingston’s dunk in transition kind of changed the tune. Our fans got into it. It was an emotional play.”
“Warriors, Warriors.” The Dubs had gone up by three. Then Livingston, the backup, heads-up, starter-when-Curry’s-out guard, grabbed a defensive rebound, sped upcourt and jammed the ball through the net to increase the lead to 63-58 and set off an ovation that shook the building to its foundations and may have done the same to the Thunder’s collective psyche.
It was over, although there were more than 15 seconds before Curry could celebrate as if he were a fan and not a two-time MVP, raising his arms over his head in triumph as the game ebbed away.
“It was a cool moment,” he said, “just knowing we came back. There was still time on the clock, but that was a moment to kind of just take in the atmosphere. … For us to overcome that early deficit and claw back, everybody on the bench having an impact, it was just a very cool moment to enjoy that fan noise and understand we were on the brink of doing something special.”
That wasn’t noise, that was adulation