As time wound down in the Warriors’ 105-89 win against Minnesota Tuesday, a chant broke out at Oracle Arena: “Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs.”
Yes, playoff basketball is returning to the Bay Area.
Combined with Oklahoma City’s win against Utah, the victory clinched Golden State’s first postseason appearance in six years and second in 19.
Some players were aware in the first half that the Thunder had won, the rest found out at halftime when Jackson announced it to the team.
“I let them know that they were 24 minutes away from accomplishing what they had set out to chase, some of them, for a career,” Jackson said.
Did Jackson’s words or Oklahoma City’s win inspire a big third quarter? Perhaps, but, regardless, that’s what ensued.
After taking a 55-54 lead into the half, Golden State (45-33) played one of its better quarters in recent memory in the third. Stephen Curry scored 13 of his 24 points as the Warriors extended their lead to 86-70 headed into the fourth, which served, more or less, as a victory lap in front of the home fans.
[RATTO: Warrior fans waiting to exhale]
Moments after the game ended, Curry took the microphone and addressed the remaining fans.
“You guys are the best fans in the NBA and you deserve this as much as we do,” he said. “We’re ready to go.”
The win was especially satisfying for Lee, who didn’t qualify for the postseason in any of his previous seven seasons in the league.
“This has been one of the few times that I’ve had the chance to contribute to a team, be a major guy, and that we’ve had the firepower to have a chance to make the playoffs,” he said. “In the Western Conference, especially. We could have all done our jobs and still missed out.”
The first half was all about Klay Thompson. He knocked down his first nine shots -- five of which were threes -- en route to 25 of his game-high 30 points. Thompson was 1-for-10 the rest of the way and was two points shy of his career high when he went to the bench for good with 5:22 left.
“There are some people that tell Klay to stop shooting,” Jackson said defiantly. “He’s a great shooter. He’s a going make shots for us. It was great to see him get it going and keep it going.”
Thompson’s 25 first-half points left him two shy of Curry’s team-high for points in a half this season. Curry had 27 in both halves of his 54-point game against the Knicks.
The importance of a playoff appearance to the fan base wasn’t lost on Jackson.
“I see security guards high-fiving, I see concession-stand workers high-fiving and smiling,” a red-eyed Jackson said. “It’s been a long time and it’s a great, great accomplishment.”
Andrew Bogut finished with a season-high 14 rebounds and Lee (15 points, 12 rebounds) added his NBA-leading 53rd double-double.
For Golden State, the remaining four regular season games will be to decide if its gets the No. 6 or No. 7 seed. The Warriors sit a game ahead of Houston for the No. 6 spot with games against Oklahoma City, the Lakers, San Antonio and Portland left on the schedule.
They host Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The Rockets have an easier road with Memphis, Sacramento, Phoenix and the Lakers still to play.