OAKLAND, Calif. – So all the Warriors did by winning Game 5 is earn another chance to extend the series in what will be the Oracle Arena finale on Thursday night.
The Warriors are bolting for the China Basin area of San Francisco, the first Oakland team to leave the city, and they will soon be followed by the Raiders, who play at the Oakland Coliseum one final season before moving to Las Vegas.
So it will be an emotional night in Oakland. The Warriors’ fan base is going to change. One season ticket-holder of 20 years told the Globe that to renew her two season tickets for Chase Center would be $80,000 for a 30-year commitment and that does not include the price of the tickets.
The Warriors are leaving a dedicated fan base that includes folks who purchased their tickets when the Warriors were a laughingstock, when the casual NBA fan had no idea where “Golden State” was, when the claim to fame for the franchise was Latrell Sprewell choking coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Now the Warriors have won three titles in the past four years and need two wins to get a fourth. And the task will be even more difficult with Kevin Durant officially out for the series after having surgery to repair a torn right Achilles’ sustained in his ill-fated comeback attempt in Game 5 Monday at Toronto.
The Warriors are not favored to win this series, and they will have to battle injuries and attrition as well as the Raptors. Dynasties usually end this way, the formidable champion playing on fumes.
The question is whether the Warriors have enough to push this to an epic final game in Toronto. The Warriors still have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green but their supporting cast has been wildly inconsistent in this series.
DeMarcus Cousins was productive in Games 2 and 5 and putrid in the other three. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are in the final stages of their careers and the rest of the bench is inexperienced or just not prepared for the moment.
“I expect us to obviously come out and play as hard as we can,” Thompson said. “We’re not even thinking about the future. We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle we’re about to give our fans. And I expect our fans to be the loudest they have ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit he would bring to the fight and the competitiveness. I know our fans will do that because we deserve it, but more importantly Kevin, for what he gave this team, this organization. There wouldn’t be banners if it wasn’t for his presence. So we expect our crowd to be loud for him.”
As coach Steve Kerr was addressing the media, Durant posted on Instagram a picture of himself out of surgery and the announcement he indeed suffered an Achilles’ tear. The Warriors have been heavily criticized for playing Durant in Game 5 after he missed nine games and 33 days with a calf strain. Durant said in his post it was his choice to play.
“I completely understand the world we live in,’’ Kerr said. “As [general manager] Bob [Myers] mentioned the other night, there’s going to be blame. There’s going to be finger-pointing. We understand that and we accept that. This is kind of what you sign up for when you get into coaching, general management, in the NBA. There’s all kinds of coverage, judgment, criticism, and it’s all part of it. So we accept that. The main thing is our concern for Kevin and these last couple of days just checking on him.
“Obviously, everybody feels horrible for what happened. As Bob mentioned the other night, this last month was a cumulative collaborative effort in his rehabilitation. And that collaboration included Kevin and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, our medical staff, his own outside second opinion doctor, outside of our organization. Kevin checked all the boxes, and he was cleared to play by everybody involved.
“Now, would we go back and do it over again? Damn right. But that’s easy to say after the results. When we gathered all the information, our feeling was the worst thing that could happen would be a re-injure of the calf. That was the advice and the information that we had. At that point, once Kevin was cleared to play, he was comfortable with that, we were comfortable with that. So the Achilles’ came as a complete shock.”
The Warriors are going to have to shake off the after-effects of the Durant injury and move forward. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be thinking of him, considering he made such a significant sacrifice to the team.
“That’s a guy who we all have seen his love for the game of basketball. For him to get back out there, as crazy as it sounds, I think he played for 11 minutes, I think those 11 minutes were enough to give us the spark that we needed,” Green said. “So now we want to continue to try to build on that and do everything that we can to finish the series the right way.”