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The Great Crowd Out West Strikes Again

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"If you ranked the top 30 basketball crowds in the country, theirs would be the only NBA one on the list.  And that is pretty cool."  -- Columbia Missourian reporter and Money from the Parking Lot blogger Bill Powell on the Golden State Warriors' crowd

The Golden State Warriors need to make the playoffs.  Because, as we were reminded once more last night, it would be a travesty for the NBA's postseason to go on and the Warriors' fans to not be an integral part of it.

Sadly for the purposes of dramatic flair in this column, the Warriors didn't win last night's contest with the Lakers.  But the fact that they even made it so far as overtime was -- call me crazy if you must -- at least partially a testament to their rabid fans and the atmosphere of ORACLE Arena.  For all of us fans out there, that's a pretty cool thought to consider.

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For most other crowds in the league (Celts fans not being included, one would hope), the first 45 minutes of last night's game would have been enough to zap their energy for the evening.  The home team cruised through the first half, heading to the break with an eleven-point lead but immediately giving it all back by allowing the opponents a 35-23 third quarter advantage.  There isn't much that can destroy a crowd quite like having the home team blow a big lead.

In most other arenas, it probably (and sadly) would have been acceptable for the fans to mail in the fourth quarter entirely.  The comeback for the Lakers could have been reasonably expected to take them out of the game, and even in what was still a tight game at the beginning of the fourth, they couldn't necessarily have been expected to just pick the intensity back up out of nowhere (well, in an ideal world, they would, but 21st century casual fan culture doesn't exactly allow for that).  By the time the 2:36 mark rolled around with the deficit at nine for the home team against one of the best squads in basketball, the fans would have been completely exonerated for the night.

In most arenas, that is.

Not in Oakland.

No, if nearly a decade and a half of misery can teach any positive lessons to a fan base, perhaps it is to never say die.  The Warriors' fans suffered but never succumbed for many years, and they saw their faith rewarded with last year's surprising trip to the playoffs and even more surprising upset victory over the top-seeded Mavericks.  These are the people who wear their gold "We Believe!" shirts proudly as though they were cult symbols.  Because, after all, as Deadspin editor Will Leitch writes in God Save the Fan, "Not much is required of a fan.  The only requirement, really, is hoping that my team wins.  It is the fundamental aspect of being a fan."

So Warriors fans get it.  They believe.  And they keep rooting.  Hard.  All the time.

They showed why once more last night.

With 2:36 left and the Warriors trailing by nine, they were on their feet.  With two minutes left, the deficit eight and the Lakers with the ball, you could clearly hear the "DE-FENSE" chat over the announcers on television.  Somehow, the roar after Monta Ellis' hanging-in-the-air-while-swerving-around-Kobe fast-break lay-in seemed to allow that sound level to double. 

The "DE-FENSE" chant intensified once more as the Lakers brought the ball up the floor with a five-point lead.  Every fan in the building seemed to be on his feet, and for whatever reason, it actually felt to the outside observer like the ends of the court were going to close in on the Lakers.

Then they did.  Or they might as well have.  Because as the decibel level increased, so did the Lakers' nervousness, and Ronny Turiaf threw the ball away, leading to a steal for Monta Ellis and another high degree-of-difficulty lay-up for the Dubs, this time for Kelenna Azabuike.   Warriors down three, 1:02 to play.  Timeout, Lakers.  Pandemonium.

In 58 seconds, the Warriors had cut an eight-point deficit to three, put the opponent on its heels and seemingly caused the sound level in the building to quadruple.   But here's the kicker:  Thinking about it afterwards brought forth the realization that for a lot of arenas in this country, the sound level at ORACLE Arena when the Warriors were down eight would be equivalent to the noise level in most of those other buildings only after the home team had come all the way back to take the lead or win the game.

Not in Oakland.

Suddenly, coming out of the timeout, the "Beat LA!" chanters were out in force.  They were coming through the television, invading the living room...and the Lakers' heads, too.  Kobe missed, Monta hit, and it felt like the roof was going to come off the building.  Yet again, that was before the Warriors had even so much as tied the game.

When they finally did, on two Baron Davis free throws with less than four seconds to play, well, all I can say is wow.

I wasn't even there.  I was three thousand miles away in the comfort of my own dwelling.  Yet I couldn't escape the feeling that the ORACLE crowd brought me a whole heck of a lot closer than that.

It was a regular season game in mid-March, one that easily could have been conceded in the final three minutes.  Anywhere else, it probably would have been.  It Oakland, it wasn't and probably never will be.

The Golden State Warriors ultimately came up short in overtime against the Los Angeles Lakers last night.  But their fans most certainly did not.

So here's to you all, Warriors fans.  For making standing and cheering an artful act of beauty once more.