Finally, the Warriors delivered a result worthy of the fans they perpetually tease.
Dorell Wrights elegant three-pointer with 1:25 to play and Nate Robinsons subsequent steal and throw to Wright for a breakaway layup sped the mythical State of Gold to its best win of the year, a 111-106 in overtime over The Team You Love To Hate Even More Than The Lakers, the Miami Heat.
And it came at one of those too-numerous-to-count moments in franchise history when the audience was ready to resign itself to one more year of the same old same old. The Warriors started disrhythmically, then went into a funk that led to a 17-point third-quarter deficit, and the sellout crowd was oddly distant through it all.
But a slow but steady comeback that eventually reduced the lead to five with five minutes to play enlivened the customers, who in turn enlivened the Warriors. An indistinct gray blur of a game suddenly became a moment of synergy between a ticket base that was ready to abandon hope after only 9 games and the team that keeps promising more than it delivers.
Put another way, the Warriors were on the verge of taking hold of 15th place in the 15-team Western Conference, an early-season metaphor for all that is bad about Warrior basketball, and the fans knew it.
But they were denied their moment of enduring despair because the Warriors chose not to give in to the funky vibe, or to the Heat, which played the last 20:34 in a seemingly self-satisfied glide. They expected, as did the world, to see the Warriors accept their fate as they do too often, but did not get the reward they expected.
Credit Dorell Wright, whose dagger of a trey with 31.2 seconds left in regulation, and recent pickup Nate Robinson for providing the difference-making energies down the stretch. In fact, credit whomever the hell you want. The Warriors looked death in the face and came away with an odd smile, like they were in on a joke nobody else had heard.
And once again, the audience was re-hooked.
By now it is hard to quantify exactly what Warrior fans deserve. It isnt as though they havent known that every year blends into the last one in an indistinct gray blur, and it isnt like they dont know that it isnt just about being entertained any more. They want a result beyond They played hard.
And under normal circumstances, they would pay full retail for that kind of misplaced optimism.
But they do counterpunch at home, and they do typically give full dollar for dollar for the locals. This was above and beyond the call, of course, and nationally most people will view this more as a condemnation of the Heat than a credit to the Warriors.
And hell, theyre 3-6 even with the win, so theyre not really entitled to a lot of national love. We Believe is a million years ago.
Still, they outscored the Heat 50-28 in the final 20 minutes, and slapped themselves out of their maddening torpor for one night. They gave the audience another six weeks of hope, even though most folks know how this hope thing usually plays itself out.
It was a moment, and a grand one, for a team that was on the verge of imploding once again. When you have the worst record in the conference at any point after the first week, people tend to see a long dark hallway with no light and no opening at the other end.
And these are the Warriors, after all, the team for whom that hallway is home sweet home.
But for this night, they beat the crowd to the punch, and carried them home to a win that will resonate for . . . well, for six weeks or so. This march to respectability is a long road indeed, but at least it doesnt have to reset its beginning to 2012-13.