An announced crowd of 19,596 flooded Oracle Arena on Monday night, most hoping to crash a party.
They wore gold “Strength in Numbers” T-shirts and drowned out pregame introductions with chants of “War-riors!” They spent the first quarter alternating between chants of “Free Draymond,” referring to suspended forward Draymond Green, and relentless booing of Cleveland star LeBron James, seemingly every time James touched the ball.
They hoped to bear witness to the first championship clinched by a Bay Area sports team in its home building in more than 40 years. Instead, the Warriors’ 112-97 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 5 sent these NBA Finals back to Cleveland and extended that strange regional drought at least a little longer.
“We need them to win it at home,” Angelo Miller of Richmond said as he headed for the exit.
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That would require a loss by the Warriors, who still lead the series 3-2, in Game 6 to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in Oakland on Sunday. Gurinder Wadwha of Oakland was not being so particular.
“Of course, the ideal situation would be grabbing it at home in Game 7,” Wadwha said. “NBA wins, the fans win, advertising wins, everybody wins. But if it has to be on the road, I think they should just take it on the road.”
The Warriors did so last year – and in the same building they’ll return to Thursday – beating the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena to win their first title in four decades.
“It would have been nice to win tonight, but we didn’t win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We didn’t play very well. They played well. So we go back to Cleveland and tee it up again.
“But I like our position (up 3-2) a lot better than theirs.”
For all the recent sporting success in the Bay Area, the last regional team to win a title at home was the 1974 Oakland A’s, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The A’s also clinched the previous year’s Series at home with a Game 7 win over the New York Mets.
Otherwise, the area’s champions have held their celebrations in somebody else’s locker room. The Giants clinched all three of their recent World Series wins on the road, in Arlington, Texas (2010), Detroit (2012) and Kansas City (2014). The Warriors’ only championship before last season came in 1975, when they finished the Washington Bullets at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md.
The 1989 World Series, of course, featured two Bay Area teams, but the A’s completed a sweep of the Giants as the visitors at Candlestick Park. The 1984-85 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins in a Super Bowl held in their backyard, 30 miles south at Stanford Stadium, but not their then-Candlestick home.
The 49ers’ other Super Bowl wins came at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami (XXIX, XXIII), the Superdome in New Orleans (XXIV) and the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan (XVI). And the Raiders won their two titles as residents of Oakland in New Orleans (XV) and at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena (XI).
The Warriors clinched their three previous series this postseason at Oracle Arena. But as the Cavaliers stretched their lead to 13 points late in the fourth quarter, chants of “De-fense” from the crowd began to soften, and as fans realized they would not be part of a celebration, they began heading for the exits and a chilly Oakland night.
“Obviously, you want to win here for your fans,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “They deserve to see us win. But you just suck it up and move on.”
Granted, the negative of not clinching at home is relative. After losing Monday, the Warriors are headed back to Cleveland, a city that has not seen any of its teams win a championship – in any venue – in 52 years.