The Warriors players came first on Friday night, trudging in silence through the tunnel to the locker room after the game. David Lee scowled. Steph Curry tried not to limp. Jarrett Jack stared at a hole in the wall.
Next came the fans, defiant at first. They complained about the refs, about Tony Parker. They talked about how there was still time in this series. Plenty of time. "Sunday! Sunday!" chanted Dave Chappelle, who was born in Washington, D.C., but was an avid Warriors fan this evening, perhaps swept up in the tide of Steph Curry and the most enjoyable team to watch in the playoffs.
From there, the We Believers filed out into the night, a hazy, tipsy yellow-clad swarm that became more melancholy by the minute. "Jarrett F?kin Jack," they muttered as they walked the bridge to the BART train, shaking their heads. And no more needed be said.
By Sunday, though, the Believers will have rallied, for that is their specialty. Once the hangovers subside, and they gorge on enough KNBR, and another beautiful Bay Area day wanes, the hope will return, as it always does. For this is the nature of being a Warriors fan: To be forever wedged between hope and pessimism, between faith and history.
After all, these Warriors weren't supposed to make the playoffs. When they did, they weren't supposed to beat Denver. And they certainly weren't -- aren't -- supposed to beat San Antonio. But, coming into Friday night, it seemed possible. And Warriors fans can do amazing things with possible.
What if the Warriors actually were better without David Lee? What if the Spurs finally were too old and Steph Curry was too unique of an offensive player? What if this wasn't a We Believe season -- when a first-round series victory was akin to a championship for people around here -- but instead an actual, real-life playoff run? You know, the kind that other teams, from other cities, make.
Think about it. The Warriors should have won Game 1. They won Game 2. And now they were coming home to Oracle, where the Believers could buoy them.
The fans certainly did their part. Oracle, or the Roaracle as it's become known, was plenty loud. The Warriors say they gave away 25,000 yellow shirts -- they were even offered to the media -- and it appeared every fan was wearing one. So positive was the vibe even Jack's succession of boneheaded late-game plays couldn't elicit more than a couple of murmured boos.
Warriors fans have no reason to be so understanding or positive. This is a franchise that has turned losing into an art form over the last two decades. The ghosts of Les Jepsen, Uwe Blab and Todd Fuller roam the halls of Oracle, bumping into walls and setting bad screens. It took the Warriors twenty years to get an All-Star --and even then, it was the wrong one, Lee instead of Curry. And then there's the matter of the team's imminent move to San Francisco.
As such, this Sunday represents the last stand for optimism among the Believers, at least this season (Warriors fans are the sports equivalent of perennials). Win at home to even the series at 2-2 and anything can happen. Lose and it's back to San Antonio, with its shrieking ladies.
There's plenty the Warriors need to do on the basketball side. They need to find a way to get Curry open against Danny Green, who spent Game 3 bumping, banging, holding, hugging, wrestling and shadowing the Golden State guard. They need to limit Tony Parker with team defensive schemes, not just individual effort. They need to get hot again from the arc. They need to team rebound, not just rely on Andrew Bogut. The bigs need to get a hand up on Tim Duncan from the elbow, because at this age he's more effective shooting jumpers than off the dribble driving to the hole, where there's help. They need to have faith in their small lineup. And, most of all, they need to hope Curry's sprained left ankle is better, because employing him as a spacer and handing the ball to Jack clearly is not the answer -- unless the question is: how do we disable the offense as fast as possible?
The optimist in Warriors fans believes all of the above can be done. The pessimist knows it's unlikely. As for the realist, well, what's the fun in being a fan if you're going to be realistic?