Bewildered Golden State Warrior supporters shared their feelings during the fourth of seven games in Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. They expressed a cautious optimism despite a second shellacking by the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing the team with the best regular season record in NBA history to the brink of elimination.
“A back to back loss is super disheartening, but at the same time I give it to [the Thunder]. They out-hustled us, they were just playing with more heart,” said Warriors supporter Alex Valencia of the opposing team. “But if anybody can come back from that, it’s the Warriors.”
Tuesday’s loss placed the Warriors 3-1 behind the opposing Oklahoma City team, meaning the Warriors must win the next three games to get to the NBA Finals. After tonight’s game at Oracle, they either win or go home (or stay home).
At the Phoenix at 811 Valencia St., Gerald Santa Maria sipped on a beer, his eyes fixated on a TV screen at the end of the pub’s bar counter while lamenting the team’s lack of aggression from the get-go during Tuesday’s game.
“[Stephen] Curry is a little sloppy,” he said. “They gotta get those offensive rebounds, that’s what’s gonna kill them. They are not focusing on defensive, they’re taking bad angle shots, they are not playing as a team.”
When Curry darted across the court, Santa Maria’s shouted at him to “get his rhythm back.” The point guard sustained an injury earlier in the series that kept him from playing in six playoff games.
“He looks a little tentative. He’s got to get some confidence under his feet, because he’s not playing his usual game,” said Santa Maria. “He’s got to lead the team by example.”
As the Warriors trailed behind the Thunder for the entirety of the two-and-a-half hour game, some supporters blamed the referees for unfair calls.
“I think the refereeing is terribly biased,” said Peter Good, a patron at the Phoenix. During the previous game, Warriors Forward Draymond Green stirred controversy and almost faced suspension after kicking Thunder player Steven Adams in the groin. Facing off with Adams again during Tuesday’s game, Green was met in the Oklahoma stadium by a booing crowd. Usually Green thrives off controversy and fan abuse. In Game 4 he didn’t, adding to team and fan malaise.
In the Mission, some bar-goers speculated the losses were due to playing in the loud and hostile environment of Oklahoma City.
“[The Thunder’s crowd] was rowdy. They stood up the whole game. That gives the team an advantage,” said Valencia. “When the Warriors score a good point, it’s silence – they don’t get that energy from the crowd to feed off of.”
Dressed from head to toe in blue and yellow, the Warriors’ team colors, at least one dedicated fan channeled her energy into the possibility of the Warriors outscoring their opponents during the second half of the game.
Kavi Reddy said that her “wish is to see the Warriors take the win,” but admitted to being skeptical given the Warrior’s performance during the first half .
“These guys need passion for dominance, and they are not really showing that fire right now,” she said. “With Oklahoma City, they are up against a really solid team.”
After establishing a 73-win record in the regular season, the Warriors appeared to be on track for winning the title as repeat champions this year. But some fans called their performance during Tuesday’s face off with the Thunder “scattered,” and blamed exhaustion.
Most praised the team’s coach, Steve Kerr, as a champion in his own right for elevating the team to historic heights.
“It’s been a long season, 73 wins takes a lot out of a team,” said Duncan Grivan, a patron at the Naper Tandy at 3200 24th St. where he watched the Warriors dribble into the fourth quarter. “Kerr is a championship coach who knows his team very well.”
But with the Oklahoma team leading by 24 points by the end of the game, others offered up advice for Kerr.
Warriors supporter Jeff Garcia wished Kerr would have been “less soft” with the players. “I don’t see him being tough enough with the team, especially not with Curry,” said Garcia. “He should have switched out some of the players.”
While the loss places all the pressure on the beleaguered Bay Area team, some passionate fans said that “all is not lost.”
“The Dubs will need to dig deep to find the energy, discipline and desire required to defeat OKC,” said ML resident sports pundit (and the editor’s husband), Mark Rabine. “Coming back from 3-1 is doable. It’s not about tactics. The players need to wake up and play their “beautiful game,” which we saw last time they played at Oracle.
“Basketball is all about who gets hot at the right time in the end,” said Valencia. “They only lost [nine] games all year, that’s even better than Michael Jordan with the Bulls. They have it in them,” he said, adding that “next game, we play at home.”
The Golden State Warriors will face the Oklahoma City Thunder at 6 p.m. on May 26 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.