First thing I did when I got to the arena was head to the floor. I had seen a tweet from Ric Bucher about David Lee doing some shootaround, but when I got there ten minutes later, I found Stephen Curry shooting around. Rusty Simmons tweeted that Steph had missed 5 straight, but I only saw the latter half. Steph was doing an "around the horn" drill (jogging through three spots -- corners and straightaway), then shot some free throws, then another round of "around the horn". He splashed his last corner trey and headed for the locker room. In came Klay Thompson, who made a lot of shots in his first two rounds, then started missing. I captured some footage on my YouTube account as well as some shots on Instagram.
At five minutes before 6:00PM, I headed to the press conference room to catch Mark Jackson's pregame "sermon". By that I mean, his constant use of his favorite cliches and sayings such as, "We are who we are" and "At the end of the day". A lot of the beatwriters and Golden State Warriors bloggers have that conference down pat via Twitter and I believe the NBA has it online, so I didn't bother to tweet too much.
After that, I headed to the Warriors locker room and found Kent Bazemore giving an interview -- I managed to ask if he'd gotten all the popcorn out of the car and he said yes -- then David Lee answered questions about his availability to play. Most of the players weren't around, save for Scott Machado. I then headed to the San Antonio Spurs locker room and caught some video of Danny Green answering some questions. Those are all on the YouTube account and someone tweeted to me that the audio could've been better. Good to know for next time.
Fast forwarding past the media dining area, where I briefly met Adonal Foyle, and watching the last bit of the Miami Heat vs the Chicago Bulls, it was time to head out to the arena to press row. Heading through the tunnel and past courtside gave me goosebumps -- you could feel Oracle's energy emanating from the court, in a sea of yellow t-shirts. And how about 8-year-old Nayah Damasen (Twitter: @NayahDamasen)? She just soaks up the crowd's cheers when she sings the national anthem. I've said this on Twitter, but if she's only eight and she's got a voice like that, it's conceivable she could be the next Mariah Carey (voice-wise!).
As far as the game, from Section 119 and looking out towards what the Warriors see going into the frontcourt, you could truly appreciate Steph's vision and patience as a point guard as early on, he surveyed the court and found Andrew Bogut for a layup with only 4 seconds on the shotclock.
You figured the Warriors came ready to play as Draymond Green made a strong bucket reminiscent of Karl Malone. But soon we would find out, it was Tony Parker and the Spurs who came out more determined. Bogut would get a dunk, but then the Spurs would answer with a dunk of their own, making about 80% of the Oracle crowd who stood up on the initial dunk, sit back down.
Parker was on fire, even hitting a three as Steph had trouble finding him. From my angle, you could see some plays develop, like when Tiago Splitter hard-doubled Harrison Barnes, with Barnes not reacting quickly enough and Carl Landry not flashing when Splitter left him. Also early on, Boris Diaw, normally a timid offensive player just trying to fit into the Spurs' offensive machine, was resolute on making an impact, hitting a couple shots and backing down Dray with ease.
The Warriors were struggling to answer the Spurs' intensity and even a made shot at the buzzer of the first quarter by Jarrett Jack would be called off, as the ball hadn't left his hand on the rather slow release. The Warriors would head into the 2nd quarter down 9 instead of 7.
In the 2nd, again, I got to see Curry at work, lofting an alley oop before even Landry could tell it was for him. Just beautiful anticipation of a play developing. Then, with the Warriors still trying hard to find some energy and the Oracle crowd not really that pumped because Parker was crossing guys left-to-right and hitting every midrange jumper in sight, came the Willis Reed Moment Part Deux, when Lee came in and immediately sparked the team with an and-one. Twitter went ablaze as that was a golden opportunity for people to make fun of the "Trade Lee" articles.
As Curry went through two staggered screens to pop open on the wing and yet not receive a pass from point guard Jack, who could've known that that would foretell the fourth quarter? Later, as Jack drew a switch and had a big (I think it was Tim Duncan) on him while Kawhi Leonard was forced to body up Bogut in the paint, Jack "jacked" a trey, but Bogut didn't even try to beast for position on the smaller Kawhi. Big red flag.
Not even Dave Chappelle being spotted in the crowd on the jumbotron could get the crowd or the Warriors going. But Jack eventually got an and-one and the energy began to flow again. Diaw quelled that in an instant, with another easy bucket down low with no assigned Warriors help, leaving Dray in the dust.
The Warriors were down 9 heading into the 2nd half, with most of the people on the Game Thread thinking it should've been more.
At the start of the 2nd half, Bogut and Klay tagged-teamed both defensively and offensively and you could feel a Warriors surge starting. Oracle was on its feet again. But some Klay bricks and questionable calls on Bogut led to, "Ref You Suck" chants. The momentum was going away.
After some Klay "klanks" and Curry looking weary, with a very bad turnover, Harrison Barnes added to the carnage with seemingly lackadaisical play, not being able to fight through screens to check Manu Ginobili. Jackson tabbed Dray once again for the sub. Klay had to pull off a great fade swish over Manu to stop the bleeding. By the end of the third, Parker had more points than Steph and Klay combined, 27 to 14+11. Also, Duncan had played more minutes than Parker, 27 to 26, so Parker had actually gotten some good rest in the 3rd. Meanwhile, Curry had played 31 of the 36 minutes through three. Not a good sign.
Draymond had another great play with a touch pass to a Klay trey, followed by a bankshot that went in, plus the harm, and Oracle was at its loudest of the night. Timeout, Gregg Popovich. Chants of "Waaarrrriorrs" drowned out the timeout music and that's when you realized the average $200+ ticket price was well worth the admission. Spurs were only up 1.
But then a couple of buckets by the Spurs, one with Jack crazily going under a screen that gave Parker a wide open make, and the Spurs were up by 7 just like that. Steph would get caught with his pants down as Danny Green would keep a possession alive on an offensive rebound -- just an off night for Steph on both ends of the court. Later, a Hack-A-Bogut resulting in two bricks from the charity stripe by the Aussie, followed by a hall-of-fame and-one by Duncan, and the Warriors were down by double-digits again with under 5:00 to go. Would they have one more run in them?
After Steph got sandwiched hard by Gary Neal attempting to take a charge along with Green closing in on the blocked shot (Steph drained both free throws), it happened. Curry rolled his left ankle. You could feel the collective gasp of 19,500 fans, as Steph limped terribly back on defense. Moans resonated throughout.
That's when things went really downhill. Jack would end up dribbling around with no end in sight, including a blatant turnover straight into the hands of the enemy. The Oracle crowd was noticeably upset and you could hear a few boos. To top it off, Klay made an aggressive move to the hoop past his defender but ended up with a "KlayUp" (a missed layup). By then, fans were filing out of Oracle in droves.
The game was soon over, a convincing win for the Spurs. While it was a consolation to Warriors fans that Steph wasn't limping as badly as before, what remained ominous was how the Spurs walked off the court. If you had just tuned in, you couldn't tell if the Spurs had won or lost. That's a bad omen for the Warriors heading into Game 4. San Antonio knows they've got to come back in 36 hours with the exact same attitude.
The final boxscore showed the Warriors and Spurs similar in almost every category, even turnovers, save for offensive rebounding (Warriors doubled up at 16-8), but only as a result of the horrid shooting, 39.3% compared to the Spurs at 50.6%.
Fans were left bitter about Jack's performance and somber over Curry's ankle injury. All of a sudden, it's a must-win for the Warriors on Sunday, otherwise they go down 3-1 heading back to San Antonio. Could all of the experts who picked the Spurs in 5 at the beginning of this series be right? My, how the tables have turned. And with Curry a big question mark, all confidence at Oracle lost in Jack, there's a feeling in the air that things could turn from bad to worse.
Afterwards, Curry left the locker room in a hurry. I was standing around in the locker room like everyone else when he appeared out of nowhere (well, probably the treatment room in the corner), and quickly stepped past me on my left. From my angle, I quickly looked down to see his black neoprene sleeve on the left ankle and a bare right foot. He was wearing slippers. He moved so quickly by me and from the two or three steps I witnessed, did not have a bad limp. However, there were reports from others who saw him walk down the hallway out of the arena, that the limp was indeed a bad limp.
Outside the locker room, I had hoped to see Curry walk around again, but it was soon announced that he would not be fielding questions, with tweets saying he had departed the arena. Rick Barry was talking to Lee and Parker walked by. Barry gave him a congratulatory handshake. There were also reports of Parker limping around, although I didn't hear about it and wasn't paying attention. Bogut was talking to a fellow Aussie who looked a lot like a younger, 6'9" version of Bogut himself. Speculation on Twitter was that this was one of the local college St. Mary's Aussie players.
I plan to be back on Sunday to give you another "Oracle mood" report! Let's hope it's one where the Warriors bring the energy and Oracle feeds off the team, not the other way around.