Facing a six-point deficit with less than two minutes left in their win-or-go-home Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors worked a clean three-point look for Klay Thompson, a career 40.6 percent perimeter shooter. His long-range attempt rattled in and out.
But Golden State regained possession, then found Stephen Curry, the same gunslinger who needed all of four years to set the league's all-time record for most three-pointers made in a single season with 272. His shot clipped the front of the rim, danced around the cylinder, then fell into the hands of San Antonio's Manu Ginobili.
On the ensuing possession Tony Parker, a career 31.3 percent shooter from distance, drilled a corner three. The 75 seconds left on the clock were meaningless.
The knockout blow had been delivered, and there would be no recovery (via WarriorsWorld.com's Jordan Ramirez):
Game. Set. Series.— Jordan Ramirez (@JRAM_91) May 17, 2013
But the thousands of fans packed inside the Oracle Arena had no intentions of leaving this series on a sour note.
Instead of heading for the exits, fans joined forces and unleashed a deafening "Warriors" chant of appreciation, a final send-off for the team responsible for bringing playoff hoops to the Bay Area for just the second time in 19 years. The unabashed embrace of their players and their coaches at their darkest hour was one of the finest moments to witness from this postseason (via HoopsSpeak.com's Beckley Mason):
These chants are just awesome.— Beckley Mason (@BeckleyMason) May 17, 2013
The cheers carried on a while after the final buzzer signaled the end of San Antonio's 94-82 series-clinching win. And the roaring level of applause went unshaken as the players left the floor for the final time this season.
Or what seemed like it would be the final time, at least.
Then Jarrett Jack, an eight-year veteran but first-year Warrior, emerged from the tunnel and made his way back on to the hardwood to show that these feelings of adoration were 100 percent mutual. His teammates would join him shortly thereafter (via Marcus Thompson of the Mercury News Group):
Jarrett Jack starts the encore by walking around the court clapping. Soon, the entire team was back on the court saluting the fans— Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) May 17, 2013
When signs of gratitude and rounds of applause weren't enough, Jack literally gave these fans the shirt off his back and then some (via Thompson):
Jack autographed his shoes and threw them in the crowd. He then took off his jersey for a little boy— Marcus Thompson (@gswscribe) May 17, 2013
Stephen Curry, a budding superstar and the biggest piece of keeping this group from being a one-hit wonder, then found a microphone and a way to bring the players and fans even closer together (via the Warriors' official Twitter account):
Perhaps even more uplifting than the moment itself, though, was the thought that this may only be a sign of great things to come for this franchise.
Remember this group lost defensive stalwart Brandon Rush for the season in the regular-season home opener, then watched in horror as its lone All-Star, David Lee, suffered a torn right hip flexor in Game 1 of its opening-round series with the Denver Nuggets. Not to mention the playoff push saw the emergence of rookie Harrison Barnes, some awe-inducing shooting performances from sophomore Thompson and a glimpse of what a healthy Andrew Bogut could mean for this team's future.
This was a fitting end to an incredible season for these lovable losers turned wonderful winners.
The only question now is in what scenario these heartwarming scene will play out in next time around.
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