It's hard to believe it now but there are few places more special than Madison Square Garden. The way that the crowd got involved in games, no scoreboard urging needed, and cajoled the Knicks to wins that seemed impossible. I recall Game Six of the 2000 second round with the Heat leading the series 3-2 and leading the game at halftime by a sizable margin. It was like the fans silently made a pact to reach new levels of support and enthusiasm in the darkest hour and push the Knicks when they couldn't do it themselves. The team pulled off the win and the series in the next game before falling to a superior bunch from Indiana but those 24 minutes are etched in my mind as the greatest show of force by a crowd.
I'm sure anyone in attendance last night in Oakland will challenge that assertion. The situation was similar, if not exactly the same. The Warriors came out on fire, building a 12-0 lead and threatening to run away with the game; if not for the sweet shooting of Jerry Stackhouse, they may have done just that. It was kind of like a boxing match, the Warriors throwing haymakers early and the Mavericks surviving and drawing things close to even as they moved into the middle rounds. It was a two-point Warrior lead at the half and it looked like they might find a way to survive another awful night from Dirk Nowitzki and live to fight one more day at home.
The crowd, however, was having none of it. They lifted their voices and lifted their team even higher than they had before, no small feat because an even bigger story than the Warriors upset victory has been the sleeping giant that was the Oracle Arena. I'll let Hash from Golden State of Mind give you the first hand perspective.
But perhaps most important, the heart of the fans, who have not only loyally stood by this organization through all of its... well, let's face it, downs; but who single-handedly turned the Oracle Arena into the LOUDEST, MOST FEARED VENUE FOR AN OPPOSING TEAM TO SET FOOT IN.
It's felonious that the two best basketball crowds in the country have been buried by a mountain of losses this century and I long for the day when MSG reintroduces itself as the Beast of the East. Would Stephen Jackson have hit four threes in the decisive third quarter without the passion of the crowd behind him? I'm the kind of person who thinks he wouldn't have nor do I think the overwhelming 36-15 third that catapulted the Warriors to an 111-86 emphatic ousting of Dallas would happen if the Oracle (and isn't that surely the finest corporate named arena) was one of those "noise meter/let's get loud" hovels. That's not to discount the players. Jackson played like a man possessed by the need to rehabilitate his reputation as a basketball player and not just a miscreant. Matt Barnes and Andris Biedrins introduced themselves to the country and Jason Richardson reemerged as a serious offensive threat.
Most of all, though, there was the Baron. Playing on one leg last night he kept the team from falling behind in the second quarter with three threes and 13 points while no one else could stay out of their own way. He let others carry the scoring load in the second half while he concentrated on grabbing 10 rebounds and six assists. Every great crowd has a player that embodies their spirit and for these Warriors and this crowd it's the Baron. I half expect to see bearded ladies at the next home game because of the way Davis grabbed Dallas by the throat in Game One and kept squeezing until there was no life left in them.