OAKLAND – One of the sadder sights for a professional sports franchise is that of its fans rising en masse and strolling toward the exits. Unwilling to watch, they walk.
This blatant display of despair has, for the better part of this decade, not applied to the Warriors.
But there it was Tuesday night, late in the third quarter of a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. Tickets worth three figures two hours earlier, tossed to the wind.
The Warriors opened the season speaking passionately about making their 47th and final year at Oracle Arena memorable. This one was going to be for the fans, those folks who have spent so much of their lives supporting them in Oakland.
Golden State has seven losses by at least 20 points this season, with five of them at Oracle. The 33-point loss to Boston was the worst in 196 home games under coach Steve Kerr.
“We talked about this being our last season at Oracle, in Oakland, the very first night that we met back in September at our team dinner that we do every year before camp starts,” Kerr said Thursday. “It’s a big part of our theme. And we’ve let our fans down many times this year at home, particularly on nights that are big ones, against great teams on national TV.”
The Warriors are 23-9 at home, the seventh-best home record in the NBA. The two-game difference between their records at home and on the road (21-11) is the slimmest among teams with the 10-best records in the league – and the closest among the top seven teams in the Western Conference.
Oracle once was the Warriors’ personal cheat code. They won 54 consecutive regular-season home games stretching from Jan. 27, 2015 through March 29, 2016. They were 39-2 at home in each of Kerr’s first two seasons, and 36-5 in the third.
Then, they were 29-12 at home last season, the exact same as on the road. The Oracle magic was gone. “Roaracle” was just another building.
The goal this season of reestablishing home supremacy has not been fulfilled.
“It’s something we’ve discussed the last two days,” Kerr said “What’s our purpose? Why are we doing this? We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our fans and particularly to our fans in Oakland, to give them our best stuff over the coming months. That’s been lacking and it’s disappointing.
“But we’ve got a great opportunity ahead of us to close the season strong and to play well and deep into the playoffs. It’s all right there for us.”
The Warriors have nine more regular-season games at Oracle, including two against the Denver Nuggets, who come to Oakland on Friday. The most imposing of the other seven home opponents are the Indiana Pacers, which visits on March 21.
To have reasonable chance to post the best record in the league, and thereby earn home-court advantage throughout the postseason, the Warriors probably need win all nine home games and at least six of their nine road games. They enter Friday 4.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who are a league-best 48-16.
The Warriors this week set a couple of goals for the final five weeks of the regular season, and one of them is to earn the top overall seed. Knowing that a postseason opponent must win in at Oracle should mean a lot to the Warriors and to Oakland.
It will mean a lot more if, over their final nine home games, the Warriors can captivate their fans until the final seconds.
Seeing fans heading to the Oracle exits early is, after all, acceptable only when the Warriors have locked up victory.