OAKLAND – The crowd at Roaracle Arena was the best kind of insane, refusing to sit for long stretches throughout much of the building, turning the building into a cauldron that sent people into the night with their ears buzzing, reaching a level of frenzy that reached the days of the 2007 playoffs here with the “We Believe” team.
This was a release. Obviously within the locker room because the Warriors were underdogs as the No. 6 team in the Western Conference that had just advanced at the expense of No. 3 Denver, but almost everyone had arrived in the last few years. Obviously for management and ownership that had taken public abuse for – oh, heavens! – trading Monta Ellis among other decisions that obviously had zero chance of working out, but the bosses were also new. Their bad memories were measured in months.
Thursday night and the 92-88 win over the Nuggets and the 4-2 series victory was about the years. It obviously would have been a special moment under any circumstances, beating a quality opponent and advancing to the semifinals to face the Spurs beginning Monday. But there is an added celebration for those who had truly endured.
The Warriors are in the West semifinals for the first time since 2007, the electric season of Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson, Don Nelson, the late charge just to make the playoffs and then the stunning upset of the Mavericks in a 1-8 matchup and the kenetic energy inside Oracle. Even when Golden State got eliminated by the Jazz in the semis, it was with one of the NBA’s all-time defiance moves, Davis barreling to the rim, taking on the bigger Andrei Kirilenko, putting one arm in Kirilenko’s face and hammering down a concussive dunk with the other. It’s still amazing the roof stayed on.
That series was six years ago.
“It seems like at least 10,” said reserve center Andris Biedrins, the only remaining Warrior from when it seemed so far-fetched to have confidence in making the playoffs and then advancing that “We Believe” became the popular catchphrase. “I swear. It seems so long ago.”
The ownership change.
The guarantees the Warriors would make the playoffs that turned out to be a bad campaign promise.
The roster changes.
This was just one night, and a reminder of how being Golden State means never being in the clear, the way the Warriors went from being up 18 with 9:11 remaining to needing to desperately hang on while trying to give the game away with 10 fourth-quarter turnovers. Except that it was so much more than just one night.
“It means a lot,” Biedrins said. “The team has come a long way. All the changes. The ownership came. We were on the right track. I think now, finally, we realize that we are finally getting the feedback. Fans deserve it, the organization, the city, the Bay Area — at the end of the day, we finally got there.”