OAKLAND — After 47 years of playing at Oracle Arena, on Sunday night, the Golden State Warriors took the floor for one last regular season home game in the building that they opened with five playoff appearances in six years, a building in which they’d experienced streaks of nine years, 12 years and five years without playoff appearances, a building that saw 13 seasons of 50 losses or more and recently, has seen three NBA championships in four years.
But before their regular-season run Oakland came to an end, it was only fitting that Golden State paid one final tribute to its home: After the starting lineups were announced, the Warriors peeled off their warmups and unveiled the iconic “We Believe” uniforms, paying homage to the 2006-07 Golden State team that eliminated the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in six games in the first round.
Doning the classic throwbacks, the Warriors gave fans at Oracle one last regular season memory to take home with them. Handling the visiting Los Angeles Clippers, 131-104, Golden State closed the regular season doors of Oracle with a slam, clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
“Definitely a different feel just in terms of what tonight means, closing out 47 regular seasons playing in this building,” said point guard Stephen Curry, who, picked seventh overall in the 2009 draft, wore those jerseys for his first season. “Then when we saw the throwback jerseys in our lockers, that’s when it became a little bit real.”
Soon after Joe Lacob purchased the Warriors in 2010, he famously pointed to lone championship banner representing the team’s only West Coast title in 1975, and said: “Look up there. That’s a very lonely flag. We want another one.” His teams have since added three more, and will take those, along with a banner honoring the 47 seasons in Oakland, to their new home at San Francisco’s Chase Center next season.
This, though, was a night for the past, not the future. That 1975 title was captured under head coach — and recently-named Hall of Famer — Al Attles and behind star small forward Rick Barry during the 1974-75 season. On Sunday night, along with several other fan-favorite players, Golden State hosted Barry to honor both the past and present of the franchise.
“The best part about Oracle throughout the years has been you fans,” Barry said during the first timeout of the first quarter as he addressed the 19,596 fans in the sold out arena.
Just as the fans had supported the franchise throughout that championship run in the mid-70’s, during the days of lowliness in the early 2000’s and now in the midst of the dynastic journey Golden State is currently on, Sunday was no different.
With a deafening roar, Oracle was alive from the moment Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson revealed the vintage home white jerseys with the orange “Warriors” logos across their chests.
The Warriors did not disappoint with their play in the regular-season finale, as Golden State was able to jump out to an early 32-28 lead after the first quarter. Durant, who has been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve at times, seemingly embraced the wave of nostalgia, scoring 10 points in the opening period on 4-of-4 shooting.
Clad in a vintage set of gear, Curry delivered a vintage performance, helping the Warriors build a seven-point lead by the break. The only Warrior left on the roster from the truly forgettable days of the franchise poured in nine points in the first quarter and 13 in the second, hitting 5-of-6 shots headed into halftime.
After letting the Clippers hang around for most of the first half, Golden State decided finish off Los Angeles with a 42-18 third quarter, one of the most lopsided periods of the season for the defending champions.
Holding the Clippers to just 36% shooting from the floor (7-of-19) and forcing six turnovers, the Warriors blew the game open, taking a 31-point lead into the fourth quarter.
“We broke free in that third,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “The biggest thing was that we didn’t turn the ball over. Everybody was moving the ball and the defense was tremendous.”
To a chorus of “MVP” chants with just over a minute to play, Curry threw down a vicious one-handed slam on a fast break feed from brother-in-law Damion Lee. Unfortunately, however, the rare play from Curry would not count as Lee was fouled during the pass.
Over the last few weeks, Curry has arrived at Oracle with a series of throwback jerseys to recognize the Warriors who came before him. Players like Andris Biedrins, Stephen Jackson and on Sunday, Monta Ellis, have made the exclusive list. Ellis famously said he couldn’t play with Curry when he was freshly drafted, and the two played two and a half seasons together before Ellis’s departure. On Instagram, Ellis thanked Curry, seemingly burying the hatchet.
The first jersey Curry wore on the march to the end, however, was that of Baron Davis, who famously threw down a monster dunk on Andrei Kirilenko in Game 3 of the 2007 NBA Playoffs against the Utah Jazz. With his dunk, Curry finished his tribute to the Golden State great.
After the drubbing of the Clippers was complete, Kerr addressed the crowd to thank them for their everlasting support.
“It’s hard to put into words what you fans mean to us,” Kerr said. “You guys have stuck with this team through thick and thin. And let’s be honest: Most of those years have been a little thin.
“The atmosphere in this place just jumped out of the gym. The electricity and the feel. Fifteen years as a player, coming in as a broadcaster, the loudest game I’ve ever heard was Game 6 [against Dallas in 2007]. All the way now as a coach, it’s an honor to feel that energy and feel that juice.”