We Believe
The 2007 Golden State Warriors

 

May 11, 2007

“We Believe Playoff” – A sign held by a fan at every Warriors home game during the stretch run of the 2006-07 season.

 

The simple to-the-point phrase “We Believe” has been overused and beaten to death by sports marketing departments over the years. After all, it is easier to play on the faithful’s emotions and elicit belief (which only requires an individual to have a particular thought) than to put together a team that demands and earns that belief from its fan base. But few overplayed clichés, summarize the Golden State Warriors fan base, described by NBA commissioner David Stern as the league’s most loyal and one that was setting franchise attendance records despite one of the longest playoff droughts in league history, as well and succinctly as “We Believe.”

 

For over a decade, all Warriors fans had was false belief. We believed that Joe Smith, Antawn Jamison, and Larry Hughes would become franchise cornerstones. We believed that Rick Adelman, PJ Carlisimo, and Eric Musselman could coach the team to the playoffs. We believed we had one of the best drafts of anyone in 2002, securing Mike Dunleavy, Jiri Welsch, and Steve Logan. We believed that Gilbert Arenas had an honest bone in his body and would keep one of his countless promises to stay.

 

This season looked to be the thirteenth consecutive built on false hope and it again appeared that all optimism had been based on the view from gold and midnight blue colored glasses. A midseason trade had rid the team of franchise cancer Mike Dunleavy Jr. and plodding stat-whore power forward Troy Murphy, but the team was floundering and head coach Don Nelson made a public concession speech. The team was nine games under .500 and facing another long summer of building false hope.

 

Out of nowhere, the team caught fire. Baron Davis came back quickly from knee surgery and Jason Richardson showed signs of his old self after having knee surgery and breaking his hand. The Warriors, owners of one of the worst road records in the NBA, went into Eastern Conference leading Detroit and blew out the Pistons. Playing with a healthy starting lineup for the first time since the trade, the Warriors went on to win 15 of their remaining twenty games and edged the Clippers for the final Western Conference playoff spot. Playoff fever gripped the Bay Area. A fan printed and distributed thousands of We Believe signs at home games, refusing help from the organization. Four thousand fans showed up at Oracle Arena to watch the Warriors’ final regular season game, which was played seven hundred miles away in Portland.

 

The Warriors’ reward for their amazing finishing kick? A series with the Dallas Mavericks, owners of one of the best regular season records in league history. There was a strange twist to this though – the Warriors had taken all 3 meetings during the regular season and had won 7 of the last 8 against the Mavs. Additionally, Don Nelson had built the Mavs and was intimately familiar with most of the Dallas roster.

 

The series got off to an awkward start for the Warriors. They were tied with Dallas after the first half of game 1, but no one was playing particularly well and the game was being played at Dallas’ pace. The third quarter began with the teams still feeling each other out. Several minutes in, it appeared that Dallas had gained the upper hand and would slowly pull away. Then Baron Davis showed the Mavs why they needed to fear the beard. The Warriors’ tempestuous leader took the game over and Dallas fell with a whimper ill-befitting of a team that considered itself destined to take a place beside basketball royalty. The game had been played at Dallas’ preferred half court pace, three Golden State starters were offensive no-shows and had almost as many turnovers as field goals, and yet Baron Davis (with some help from Steven Jackson and Matt Barnes) drove the Warriors to a surprisingly easy 97-85 win. The home court advantage Dallas worked all year long to earn was gone.

 

Game two was another one man show, but this time center stage belonged to referee Bennett Salvatore. Monta Ellis led the Warriors to a hot start and a 15-7 lead, but everything degenerated in a series of mystifying whistles. The Warriors hung tough playing 5 on 8 until a 3rd quarter Dallas run gave the Mavs a double digit cushion and Salvatore prevented any thoughts of a comeback by ejecting Golden State’s two best players. Baron Davis was sent off for clapping, and Steven Jackson was given an early shower for having a bad reputation. The Dallas ushers then refused to let Jackson leave through the normal visitors’ tunnel by the team bench and forced him to take a lap around the court in an effort to incite Jackson to do something that would get him suspended for game 3. Home court advantage indeed. The Warriors, now playing 3 on 8, could do nothing but wait to get home knowing that they accomplished their mission – they had split on the road.

 

It was a homecoming thirteen years in the making, perhaps longer. The Warriors hadn’t had a home playoff game since 1994, and then it was a team facing elimination down 2-0 in a best of 5 series to a heavily favored Phoenix team. Warriors fans, who had filled the Arena for over a decade of lousy basketball, came ready to unleash all that frustration and anguish onto the unsuspecting Mavericks.

 

I was in my seat 75 minutes before tip-off, and was nowhere near alone. There were hundreds of people in their seats and thousands roaming the Oracle (the new corporate name of the Arena in Oakland) and the surrounding parking lots. Over an hour before tip, Jason Richardson, one of the longest tenured and most popular Warriors, came out to shoot around and drew a roar upon emerging from the tunnel. Half an hour before tip the majority of fans, clad in new yellow “We Believe” shirts, were in their seats and chants of “Let’s go Warriors!!!” (clap clap clap-clap-clap) rolled through the Oracle. The game 3 crowd set a record for most people to ever attend a basketball game in the state of California (remarkable considering that the state houses 4 NBA franchises and 3 major college basketball programs plus another that has won a national championship). We, the fans, were ready. The Dallas Mavericks were not.

 

Behind the energy of a crowd that was so loud and energetic that ESPN’s microphones repeatedly malfunctioned due to an overload from crowd noise, the Warriors ran Dallas off the floor. Jason Richardson finally showed up and had a breakout game in his first ever home playoff game. Baron Davis was his brilliant playoff self, and the Warriors managed to win again despite not receiving much production from key cogs Al Harrington, Monta Ellis, and Mickael Pietrus. The Warrior bench (Pietrus, Harrington, and Matt Barnes) shot a combined 4/15 from the field, and the team shot 26% on threes. Regardless, the Mavs looked helpless as the Warriors took a 2-1 series lead. The fans delivered, as Steven Jackson remarked that the floor shook from the noise. Much like the Warriors, the fans were just getting started.

 

Game 4 was about will, specifically that of Baron Davis and the yellow mob in Oakland. Once again, Warrior fans broke the record for attendance at a basketball game in the state of California. And once again, Baron Davis broke the team with the best record in the NBA. The game was close throughout, with Dallas trying to pull away and the Warriors reeling them back in every time. Dallas went up 7, and the Warriors tied it back up. Dallas went up 9, and the Warriors tied it again. No sequence captured the back and forth, the Warriors’ willing themselves to stay in the game, like the closing seconds of the first half. With the game tied due to another Warrior mini-comeback, regular season MVP-in-waiting Dirk Nowitski scored and was fouled, and completed the 3 point play. The Warriors were seemingly left to go into the locker room on a down note and with momentum following the big German into the visitors’ locker room. With just over a second left, the Warriors were inbounded the ball from under their own basket. Not wanting to foul and thinking the half was over for all intents and purposes, the Mavs laid off and let Baron Davis catch the ball and fling it from half court. Pandemonium erupted as the ball banked in to tie the game at half. The Mavs and their MVP would not get an inch from the Warriors on this night.

 

The second half was as tight as the first. The Warriors started by hitting a pair of 3 pointers, and the crowd rose to its collective feet. Despite several Dallas runs that would swing the lead back and forth, the crowd remained up and crazed the rest of the game. Warrior fans nearly blew the roof off the Oracle when Baron drove in and set up an Andris Biedrins slam to take a 3 point lead late in the game. Dirk Nowitski found his long range jumper in the final minute, but it was too late and the Warriors strutted to a 3-1 series lead.

 

Game five in Dallas started poorly and sloppily for the Warriors. Dallas was seemed determined not to waive the white flag of surrender on their home court and the Warriors were mentally absent. Late in the second quarter, the Mavs led by 21. But as is characteristic of the New Warriors, the ones that came together the last quarter of the regular season and rewarded the faith of a fan base that made the term long suffering Warriors fan redundant, the Warriors kept believing in themselves and stormed back. With three minutes left in the game, the Baron of the Oracle hit what looked to be a 3 point dagger that put his Warriors up by 9. Alas, Dirk Nowitski and his Mavs showed rare signs of backbone and, with the help of some iffy officiating and bad Warriors offense, came back to win the game. Still, the message was sent. The Warriors were not messing around, the Warriors would not lie down and quit even on the road. The Warriors, having outscored Dallas by 30 over a roughly 2 quarter long stretch, were the better team and would finish off the Mavs in the best place they could – the Oracle Arena in front of another golden mob.

 

The Warriors blew out the Mavs in game 6, though not without some early drama. The Warriors sprinted out to a quick lead, but the Mavs stayed in the game with several Jerry Stackhouse corner threes. In fact, the Mavs would hit only threes and free throws for the first fourteen minutes of the game, but remained close. Baron Davis caused the single greatest spike in Bay Area blood pressure since the 1989 earthquake (or the 2002 World Series, but that didn’t happen so let’s move on) when he pulled up lame with a hamstring injury in the 1st half. But Baron came back on one leg, hit several miracle jumpers (or ers, as he couldn’t jump), and the Warriors led by two at the half.

 

The second half started with the teams trading baskets early. Then, Dallas was hit with a storm they could not weather. Stephen Jackson played rainmaker, hitting four of his seven threes in a third quarter burst that put the Warriors up by twelve. The run continued from there as the Warriors extended their lead to 25. From there, it was one long group hug between the players, the coaches, and their enthralled fans. There was yet another state attendance record set that night, and the entire Arena stood for the second half. There would be no quieting the crowd. There would be no leaving early to beat traffic. We waited a long time for this. We believed when there was nothing but fools gold, we believed and were made fools of, but now our faith was rewarded. Thousands stuck around as the players streamed back onto the court twenty and thirty minutes after the final buzzer. Andris Biedrins waved a Warriors flag. Mickeal Pietrus crowd surfed. Others just stood in their gold We Believe shirts and took in the scene. The dreams, the belief, had become reality.

 

We Believe Upset

 

We Believe Conference Final

 

We Believe NBA Final

 

We Believe Championship

 

 


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