The Warriors fans, who revere the "We Believe" era of Golden State basketball as the precursor to the franchise's current success, simply refused to believe it.
As they aimlessly ambled toward the exits after a devastating Game 4 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Oakland, the Golden State faithful was in a confusing limbo between denial and acceptance that the loss -- a 105-92 disappointment -- could have been the last game ever at Oracle Arena.
For an organization that's experienced as much positivity, intensity and jubilation as the Golden State Warriors, it would've been criminal for the arena to close its doors to NBA basketball on such an absolute downer. The last taste of Oracle would have been bitter, painful and tough to swallow.
But now, afterover the Toronto Raptors north of the border, the Warriors get a mulligan -- a golden opportunity to send Oracle Arena out with one last NBA Finals win.
"Yeah, our goal was to get them back on the plane, get them back to Oakland," Klay Thompson said of the Game 5 win. "We owe our fans one more game in Oracle."
The oldest arena in the NBA opened in 1966, and has seen every iteration of winning and losing over the years. The positive memories stand out -- the 1975 championship, the Baron Davis-led "We Believe" upset over the No. 1-seed Dallas Mavericks and the most recent run of five straight NBA Finals -- and the Warriors have the chance to add one more improbable story to the memories stored within the building's concrete with a Game 6 win.
All year long the Warriors have been asked about their memories of Oracle Arena, never knowing which game would be its last. Golden State coach Steve Kerr shared his memories as a visiting player in the building, awestruck at how loud and loyal the fans were despite the team's lack of winning during some lean years. The players, often in need of a jolt of energy during the doldrums of the regular season, continually cited the last season at Oracle as motivation to finish things off the right way.
That's not exactly how things played out. Golden State lost 11 games at home -- which doesn't seem like many for any normal NBA team, but in Kerr's first three seasons as head coach, the team lost nine home games combined. And it wasn't just the number of losses, it was the way that they lost. They were blown out by the Lakers on Christmas Day, even though LeBron James didn't play in the second half after suffering a groin injury. They lost to the Thunder by 28. They lost to the Dallas Mavericks by 35. They lost to the tanking Phoenix Suns -- the worst team in the league -- after which Thompson called out the Oracle fans for their lack of enthusiasm.
"I know it's not the playoffs, but it is our last go-around at Oracle," Thompson said after the March 11 loss. "At least you could stand up or something when we make a good play."
They've lost at home four times this postseason, making history by blowing a 31-point lead to the Clippers in Game 2 of the opening round, only to come back home and drop Game 6 as well. Most recently the Warriors lost their first two home games of the NBA Finals.
So no, it hasn't been the glorious victory lap that Golden State players and officials have talked about since Media Day back in September. But they have the chance to fix all of it with a Game 6 win on Thursday. Because of the way these playoffs have gone, with injuries threatening to derail a seemingly untouchable dynasty, a Warriors win would be the ultimate reward for the fans who stuck with them throughout their down years, continuing to show up despite a glaring lack of success.
Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson -- whose jerseys will almost assuredly hang from the rafters in the Warriors' new home across the Bay Bridge at Chase Center one day -- can make the transition from Oakland that much smoother. The only adds further motivation for the Warriors to put Oracle Arena to bed with one last incredible win.
"I think just in terms of the opportunity we have in front of us in two days, we'll be suiting up in front of Oracle Arena and like you said, with the amazing atmosphere and opportunity to play for him, and to kind of honor the sacrifice, I guess, he made in terms of putting his body on the line tonight," Curry said after Game 5. "We're going to give everything we got. I would like to say I would guarantee the win, but who knows how it's going to end up, but we're going to give everything we got. We're going to fight, we're going to compete, and I know if we get a chance to talk to [Durant] the next two days, that's what he would expect."