The Warriors can clinch a playoff spot with a victory tonight against the Utah Jazz at Oracle Arena. It would be the first time the Warriors have been to the NBA playoffs since 2007 and only their second playoff appearance in the past 19 seasons.
If the clinch doesn’t happen Sunday, it will happen Tuesday when the Warriors play the Minnesota Timberwolves at Oracle. If not then, the next game or the one after that, but you get it.
This is going to happen.
The last time the Warriors went to the postseason – the “We Believe” season – it created such a tangible fervor among the fans that it was noticed nationally and became part of the team’s story.
The Warriors knocked off the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.
The atmosphere around the 2006-07 team and inside Oracle Arena during the last month of the regular season and into the playoffs was one of the more magical moments in Bay Area sports history.
No, the Warriors didn’t win a championship that year, but they ended a 12-year playoff drought and further galvanized an already passionate fan base. There was an explosion of basketball excitement that ran through the entire Bay Area six years ago, and it was a very real and authentic thing.
This year is going to be different. It can’t help but be.
There were many factors that helped create that one-of-a-kind moment, not the least of which was that Warriors team had to win nine of its last 10 games to even get into the playoffs.
The Warriors had to beat the Blazers in Portland on the final day of the season to qualify. The win that night ended an improbable and unforeseen 16-5 regular-season finish that turned a 26-35 season going nowhere into something memorable.
The “We Believe” team – led by Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and Jason Richardson – fed off the fans’ energy and vice versa, to create a kind-of controlled pandemonium.
Davis and Jackson were legitimate personalities back then, and over that stretch they played with a fire and frenzy that carried over to the team and fans. Coach Don Nelson was no slouch when it came to charisma, either, and that certainly didn’t hurt.
This year’s team is very likable, no doubt about it. Stephen Curry and David Lee, the leaders of the team, are solid pros and solid people.
Coach Mark Jackson has done a terrific job with this team, but he’s no Nellie in the mercurial department.
That year the Warriors played the role of gritty upstart and entered the playoffs as underdogs to the Dallas Mavericks, who finished with the NBA’s best record at 67-15.
But underdogs wasn’t really an accurate characterization of the Warriors – at least not against the Mavericks – because they had beaten Dallas several times over the previous couple of years.
In any event, the Warriors shocked the Mavericks in six games, with three of those wins coming at a vibrant and vibrating Oracle Arena.
And now, the Warriors are back in the postseason. But this year they’re not fighting to get in the playoffs, they’re fighting to maintain the No. 6 seed and a more favorable matchup.
This year there is no suspense, like in 2006-07. Sure it might be a little surprising that the Warriors are having the kind of season that they are, but, in truth, we saw it coming.
The Warriors were 10-6 at the start of December and 22-10 at the start of January. They stumbled a little bit after that but they were always comfortably over .500 and safe and secure among the top eight.
For the past few months the question hasn’t been if the Warriors would make the playoffs but when. Well, that when could be tonight.
And if not tonight, then probably in a day or two.
But make no mistake, the playoffs are coming, and everyone remembers what happened last time. Warriors fans set a standard in 2007 that will seemingly be impossible to re-create.
Who knows what this year’s playoff scene will turn into around the Bay Area? But whatever happens, it could start tonight.