I woke up Thursday morning probably like any other Oracle ticket holder, juiced with anticipation for the game that night. All I could think about was "Roaracle". Specifically, that moment when the Golden State Warriors rally with a three-pointer from Stephen Curry and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has to charge onto the floor to obstruct the referee's march up the court just to call timeout -- because it's too loud and the raucous crowd's frenzied and the ref's brain suddenly realizes one of his six senses has become impaired.
I wouldn't be surprised if Jarrett Jack woke up that morning and thought the same thing.
NOTE: This is a “Monster” recap to close out the season -- you will get this NOWHERE else (Poor Man’s Commish doin’ work)!! -- and as a tip of my hat to DubNation. If you want the condensed version, just read the pre-amble and the finale and skip the four sections of the game recap. But if you skip the recap, you won’t know that the Warriors -- as they always fight, whether flat or not -- actually could’ve stole this one...
- Pre-amble -- Juiced!
- Q1 -- Out of the gate: not pretty, but definitely in it
- Q2 -- HB, please get up...please
- Q3 -- Steph Rules at work: take advantage of the big man
- Q4 -- It came down to one Steph jumper over an iso vs Parker
- Finale -- Jack’s tears speaks volumes
Cue the Dance Cam on the jumbotron. Flo Rida's "Wild Ones" track starts with the piano intro and Sia Furler wails, "Hey I heard you are a wild one, oooohhhhooohhhh..."
Imagine 19,500 people now standing and cheering in euphoria, most of those fans wearing their yellow playoff t-shirt, most of those fans nodding to that increasing "Wild Ones" beat, most of those fans dancing in their seats, and the best of those fans being captured on the giant LCD screens atop the middle of Roaracle.
By the second verse, more and more people are getting into the groove, happiness spreads as the jumbotron shows a kid making up moves on the fly, some patrons start pointing to the video as it transitions to a normally calm adult bespectacled professional, who gets it on with his own jerky movements, the sleeves on his dress shirt now rolled up, waving the yellow t-shirt as if it were a rally towel, the top button of his dress shirt now unbottoned to reveal the white t-shirt underneath -- the abandonment of ensemble that used to represent his cool, calm, collected 9-to-5 self.
Plus, backs against the wall. I mean, Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets was a so-called “must-win”, but this one: truly win or go home. Instead of the usual nervousness that has plagued this franchise since ‘74-75, there was a feeling of ”I can’t wait to get this started” to see how Golden State would respond to a one-and-done.
Alas, that “Wild” moment never happened Thursday night. The Warriors came out flat, with the Spurs poised.
Out of the gate: not pretty, but definitely in it
The game started out ugly for the Warriors as they displayed simple ineptness down low, coughing up not one, not two, but three (possibly four, my memory escapes me!) interior possessions. To make matters worse, When Steph hit his first trey in Danny Green’s grill, it was clear he had much more confidence on this night than in Game 5, when he had passed up a few shots. Pop called a timeout almost before the ball splashed through, but it was way too early to bust out Flo Rida. Again, a masterful use of the timeout as defense by the Spurs’ sage. David Lee made an early cameo and, lo and behold, the Warriors had their starting five that should’ve been had Lee’s injury against the Nuggets not occurred: Steph, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Lee, and Andrew Bogut. A nice little “keep-away” game of pickle with Bogut soon ensued, but as the Spurs had done so often in this series, it was matched by an equally stellar play on the other side of the court, as Manu Ginobili roped a lob pass (yes, Manu has discovered another dimension that defies physics as we know it) to Kawhi Leonard for an easy bucket. And then, oh man, a missed “#BogutSmash”! The rim was just a little too far away for the big man to reach and the dunk that would’ve knocked a few bolts off Oracle’s roof bounced away harmlessly. Boris Diaw crowded the middle using his butt on Draymond Green (a sight all too common this playoffs), Curry helped, Spurs corner trey good. Another play down low for the Spurs, Lee couldn’t help because he had “Robert Horry” Ginobili up top. Bucket good. However, Festus Ezeli amazingly stripped what would have been a Hall-of-Fame wrap-around layup by Manu, although Klay wasn’t aware of the clock and drove with less than 4 ticks remaining instead of pulling up. The buzzer embarrassingly went off in mid-stride, but despite handing Tiago Splitter his (gulp!) fifth and sixth steals inside of the last six quarters, the Spurs being assisted on all nine of their field goals attempts -- vintage San Antonio execution, and five turnovers (albeit the Spurs had four), the Warriors were only down 19-21 after one!
HB, please get up...please
Then came the Quarter of the HB Gasp (or Gash?). Barnes had been playing well, getting the defensive start mano-y-mano on Tony Parker, somewhat holding his own as more physical imposition on TP, while converting quite easily on Tony on the offensive end. After Gary Neal made a couple of nice plays, one of them a fake interior pass resulting in a made fadeaway, Tiago easily blocked a “#KlayUp”, but Jarrett Jack regained possession for the Dubs with a block of his own on a Tony layup. Barnes had a chance to bring the house down with a trey, but it went off back rim. The Warriors were down just 23-27 and they were playing like crap. After DJ D Sharp played his new single “Let’s Go Warriors” during a timeout, Andris Biedrins entered to a perfect Latvian pronunciation by the Oracle PA announcer. Cue cheers. However, the offense remained stagnant, as Jack failed to clear the top for HB to take Anthony Bonner, leaving Neal to shade Barnes to the obvious righthand and interior help. Splitter got a “gimme” under the basket, assisted by Parker, prompting me to wonder if Tiago might have the easiest starter’s paycheck in the league by just hanging around in the paint as Tony tirelessly dribbles around -- yes, yes, I know Beans has the easiest paycheck overall; I meant starters. The Spurs stretched the lead to 33-23 with six minutes to go, but then a Steph hard-driving Parker-like layup into the chest of Tony, good! Pop popped off his seat (pun intended) and called timeout again after Curry’s kerosene, and Steph was mad at the non-called and-one -- Pop successfully played defensive Sixth Man yet again! The Spurs executed out of the timeout, as Jack was caught on on Bonner, but a determined Steph kept the Warriors in it, with a lefty layup. With three minutes to go, a trey by Steph assisted by a hustling Beans on the oreb, followed by a Jordanesque take by Barnes, followed by a superstar non-call travel on a layup by Steph (Tim Duncan wanted the travel but probably fouled Curry) pulled the Dubs to within 36-39. But, once again, like an MP3 stuck on repeat, the Spurs followed with Parker free throws (despite the “Eva” chants), a Timmy bankshot assisted by Manu, and a Green trey where Steph got lost, dazed once again by TP’s lolly-gagging, and not only were the Warriors suddenly down 36-45 with 2:00 to go in the half, but...
Ouchie mama! Perhaps the only time you could ever hear a pin drop at Oracle. The diametric opposite to “Wild Ones”. Ugh. A worried “Let’s Go Warriors” chant broke out, but died down quickly. The gravity of the moment, the season on the line and the game’s only consistent Warrior, was just too much, even for Roaracle. If there was any need for a sense of urgency for the Dubs, this was it. Unfortunately, more inconsistency ensued: Lee, torn hip flexor and all, got easily swatted by Timmy, but Steph managed to close the half by going the length of the court with a right-hand scoop. The Warriors were down 40-47 at the half with the entire arena on pins and needles with “Black Falcon Down” (okay, absolute last time I will use that nickname), representing the fourth of five original Warriors season and playoffs starters suffering some kind of debilitating injury
Steph Rules at work: take advantage of the big man
Just when I thought the worst, just when I noticed Harrison wasn’t in halftime warmups, just as I was checking Twitter constantly and seeing all the somber tweets about him, Roaracle cheered as the third quarter started. I looked up to see Barnes standing at the baseline with his usual calm demeanor, ready to receive the ball from the ref. Amazing! And guess what, Beans was starting alongside Bogut. But the halftime deficit would grow deeper, as the muffs would outnumber the heroics. Roaracle could be seen frantically asking for a three-second call on Tiago, knowledgeably motioning their arms mimicking what should’ve been the referees’ call. Then Roaracle pulled its hair out as Klay made a terrible pass and Barnes (you know, the guy who was down on the floor, motionless, bleeding from his temple a mere twenty minutes of elapsed time ago) was the only Warrior to run back on D and save a sure layup -- he actually did that twice in the quarter, busted forehead and all! As a whistle was later called on a Warrior for a touch foul on Duncan’s jumper, owner Joe Lacob leapt from his courtside seat to protest, seventy feet away. The Warriors would go on to commit four turnovers in the first four minutes. Certainly not the type of 3rd quarter performance needed with your backs against the wall. With Klay playing poorly, Barnes seemingly still a little off kilter from the head butt with the floor, the Spurs would exacerbate the Warriors feeble attempts at a comeback -- with no Mark Jackson timeouts to stop the sloppiness -- by trapping Steph to pass the ball the Bogut in the middle, who was too timid, perhaps from his bum left ankle, and duped into a turnover, while deploying Splitter to hedge Steph as he crossed halfcourt in transition (while Bogut labored to reach the frontcourt), and Green hand-checking Steph to death on at least one sequence with a no-call. Add to Green’s resume getting beat backdoor and fouling just enough to make Barnes miss the dunk; Barnes would only convert one free throw. And then Kawhi Leonard missing a left corner pocket trey, with the defender flying towards him, but getting the rebound off the back iron and smashing the dunk baseline with no resistance. A rim rocker so ferocious that the only silver lining was that it didn’t posterize any particular Warrior, as it went uncontested. The only antidote to the Spurs’ salvo on O and D was Steph’s amazing near-behind-the-backboard “off the ceiling” rainbow over Duncan, then later a trey by Klay that made people wonder if he awoken from his sleep-walking (nope, because Pop called a timeout after that to bring things back to normal). Flashing Chris Mullin, who was on the ESPN broadcast, on the jumbotron didn’t even work. The Spurs would end the quarter with Hack-a-Zeli, with Festus making 2-of-4 from the charity stripe, and Kent Bazemore getting burn in only the last 20.7 ticks, with Pop and MJ exchanging chess moves with Green coming in, only to be called on what jumobtron replays showed appeared to be a phantom foul while guarding Ginobili. Joey Crawford’s less-than-sterling reputation with Roaracle fans decayed further, as the arena became all but unhinged and what ensued was the loudest “Ref You Suck” chant (largely because it was in unison, for once) I’d ever heard, ranking second only to the “BULL$^&%” chants from the We Believe run.
It’s outside the scope of this Monster Recap, but if Patty Mills got significant burn early in the quarter from the Hall of Famer, why couldn’t Bazemore be utilized at least in an equal capacity? Instead, you further solidified Baze as a benchwarmer, whose good individual D on Manu in the waning moments occurred without context to Baze’s overall abilities. I really couldn’t blame the ref for calling that one. And that’s what you get for sweeping Bazemore under the rug after a truly valiant desperation appearance in Game 1. Had they not given that game away, would Bazemore have played more and would the series have taken an entirely different shape? Again, outside the scope of this storytelling. Yet despite all of that, all of that horrendous Dubs play, all of the “WTFs” (largely brought on by bad plays by Klay) posted on the GSOM game thread, the Warriors were still only down seven heading into the final frame.
It came down to one Steph jumper over an iso vs Parker
Despite Splitter opening the fourth with a couple of buckets, old-man Manu with a driving layup, Danny Green flicking another three-point dagger, three Spurs running at Steph on the perimeter resulting in a dump down to Lee at the elbow and a miss, and another questionable call by Crawford, and Barnes reportedly benched for the remainder due to a headache, the Warriors managed to keep the game within two possessions as Jack and Lee, the latter of which most Dubs fans felt was a makeup call by Crawford, both converted on and-ones early. Then, the critical moments with just over five minutes remaining. Just when it seemed like Game 3 all over again when the Spurs, starting with Duncan, started missing shots apparently due to fatigue, just when Curry hit a pullup J to close the gap to 75-77, followed by a turnover via Duncan pass seemingly intended for ref Crawford, the unthinkable unfolded, even as the wise Pop sat Timmy on the bench. Steph missed an isolation play on the left elbow against Parker. The Dubs even got the offensive rebound and another jumpshot by Steph, this time a stepback, went off iron. Off of Splitter’s outlet, Ginobili came down, Parker went baseline and Jack -- not the swiftest of feet -- couldn’t get through the screens, and Manu delivered the ball to Tony who drilled the first nail in the coffin: a corner trey. With the Spurs up five and three minutes to go, the Dubs in the penalty and having to play a few perfect possessions in a row, well, they weren’t perfect. The Spurs were. Kawhi hit another trey with a hand in his face, with the Warriors countering with a wide-open Klay trey that went in and out, followed by an offensive rebound leading to Steph rattling his trey in-and-out. With the “#SplashBrothers” unable to halve the six-point lead, Parker delivered the final knockout punch from beyond the arc. All of a sudden the two-point deficit with the ball in Steph’s hands, iso’ed on one side of the floor against the worst Spur defender, was all but a distant memory as San Antonio had punched its ticket to the next round, now up by nine with just over one minute to play. One GSOM threader wondered why the Warriors seemed to always come out of timeouts unfocused. As another commenter remarked, “Too mesmerized by MJ’s speeches?”
Finale: Jack’s tears speaks volumes
My favorite moment at Roaracle is when "Wild Ones" reaches the bridge, when the beat softens and the music dies down a little...
I am a wild one break me in, Saddle me up and let's begin, I am a wild one tame me now, Running with wolves and I'm on the prowl.
(almost captured in this clip I found on YouTube...)
That quiet part of the song: you can actually hear the fans bustling because the music isn't blaring at that particular moment. That's when you can actually hear the happiness of 19,500 Warriors fans.
"Wild Ones" never played. With 40 seconds remaining, the game was beyond reach. The Spurs’ threes, setup by inside-out by the driving Parker, complemented by a 6’10” long-armed Hall-of-Famer’s ability to get the ball in the bucket from virtually every angle within fifteen feet, were in stark contrast to the Warriors’ threes, which were largely outside-only, created by off- or on-ball screens when the in-transition opportunities were taken away, complemented by...? Complemented by a 7-foot beast rendered toothless, or really, ankle-less. Complemented by a weakside master with one completely torn hip flexor. Complemented by an undersized low-post player whose low-post moves were rendered all but non-existent save for a few open jumpers and hustle putbacks.
But then as the buzzer blared and Roaracle started chanting, “Waaaarrrriooorrs, Waaaarrrriooorrs”, as the Warriors were officially eliminated and as the players graciously congratulated each other for a well-fought series, another moment that could only happen at Roaracle happened. Jack didn't leave the floor. Instead, he walked towards the now-empty Spurs bench and pointed to the crowd. He gave them a thumbs up. He wrapped a towel around his head and wiped away some tears.
I'm sure there were other NBA players watching that game, future veteran free agents, young future NBA draft picks, taking note of that. Earlier in the playoffs, Jack said as much (see Bay Area Sports Guy’s video below, where Jack proclaims Roaracle to be “ten times louder than Duke”), even before the poignant moment. It’s like the Warriors ship finally made a hard a turn to port, a left hand inflection towards an upward slope on a graph going left to right, if you’re keeping score. And every Dubs fan, from those outside on the decks anxiously monitoring the seas, to those sitting snug in their cabins, felt it.