OAKLAND – A full hour after it was over, after the most remarkable Warriors comeback since 1962, veteran center Jermaine O'Neal was the last man standing. He was talking. And he had a rapt audience.
Much as had been the case at halftime, when O'Neal gathered the Warriors and reminded them of their mission. They were being blown out of their building, the place they vow to protect, by an inferior Toronto team. It was not close, and O'Neal was compelled to deliver a message that said, in short, we're not having this.
"Terrible, terrible," was how he described the first half of what became a stirring 112-103 win over the Raptors on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. "Unacceptable. Ridiculous. We should have paid our fans (their) money back for that first half of basketball.
"It was very disappointing, considering we're talking about doing something special. If we're going to be a good team, we have to take care of business against teams that, um, are underperforming right now."
The Warriors were flat at the start, flatter leading up to halftime. Toronto, which came in shooting 42 percent as a team, shot 67 percent in the first quarter, 52 percent in the second. The Warriors were down by 17 (65-48) at the break, and O'Neal couldn't stand it.
So – with co-owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers together in another room, ready to punch walls – O'Neal shared his feelings with his teammates.
"Jermaine did a lot of the talking," coach Mark Jackson said, adding that he merely performed the group finish.
"J. O. preached at halftime," said Curry, who then shared the point of the sermon.
"We had to show some resolve as a team," he said. "We had some success last year, but that doesn't mean anything this year. Teams are going to be gunning for us, so for us to have a first half like we did was very embarrassing and disappointing. To come back like we did, is a strong testament to where we're headed as a team."
O'Neal, calling upon perspective gained through more than 17 years of NBA experience, challenged himself and his teammates to be the players and the team they wish to be. And, then, go out and prove it.
"One of the realist speeches I ever heard," Klay Thompson said. "And he said we'll see what we're made of in the second half. And we showed what we’re made of."
O'Neal's speech didn’t take effect immediately; the Raptors opened the second half with a 10-0 run, pushing their lead to 83-58, with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
Jackson called timeout, said a few words and sent his team back onto the floor. From that point on, the Warriors outscored Toronto 54-20, hounding the Raptors with ferocious defense and pounding them with a barrage of 3-pointers. The Warriors were 9-of-14 on treys over the final 13:43, sparing themselves an avalanche of humiliation.
"This being my third year here, there has not been a bigger win when you talk about a statement," Jackson said.
Yet, to a man, the Warriors said the spark came from O'Neal's heart, which lit his tongue, which ignited a rally for the ages.
"I'm not one of those guys where I just get to yelling and screaming," O'Neal said. "This is real. This is real. A lot of people put a lot of time in effort into this – the preparation that coach Jackson and his staff put into this, the fan support that we get in this building every single night, the ownership, the money they put into this team.
"You don't get this opportunity very much. So we have to do a better job of understanding what's at stake here, because you may not get this opportunity again, to compete for a championship."
Spoken like a man who retirement on the horizon, a man who came here seeking one more chance to know what it's like to taste championship champagne.
The Warriors are not there, not yet, but a night like ought help light the way.
THE GOOD: O'Neal's halftime speech, Draymond Green's tool box of grit and intangibles, the fourth-quarter shooting of Curry and Thompson, who combined to make 6-of-7 3-pointers. Outrebounding Toronto 14-1 in the fourth quarter.
THE BAD: The entire first half, and much of the third quarter. Being outrebounded 37-22 through the first three quarters.