Road Warriors Pushing Borders of 'Dub Nation' Beyond Oracle ArenaFebruary 21, 2016
LOS ANGELES — At a recent shootaround in Portland, Stephen Curry was asked if he'd noticed the swell of road support for the Golden State Warriors this season.
"Who wouldn’t want to play in that kind of atmosphere when you come out for pregame warm-ups or obviously when the game starts and you see huge representation?" Curry said, per CSNNW.com. "Dub Nation, that’s fun. It’s always a pretty consistent kind of playoff-like atmosphere, so it helps us get ready."
Having such a strong presence at the Moda Center didn't save the Warriors from a 137-105 shellacking at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. But at Staples Center—supposedly hostile territory given the chippy rivalry with the Los Angeles Clippers—the Warriors felt right at home and played accordingly (for the most part) in a 115-112 win.
"We’ve got to give them something to cheer about," Curry said after the victory. "We had the same kind of vibe last night [in Portland]. You wouldn’t have known because of how we were playing. We’ve had a great showing on most of our road games. If we play the way we’re supposed to play and execute and give them something to cheer about, you can feel their presence even more."
The Warriors obliged, but not without some obstacles. Yet Andrew Bogut's sore Achilles and Curry's early foul trouble did little to slow Golden State's scoring machine. Klay Thompson dropped 16 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter and drew raucous applause with every splash. When Curry picked up his second foul for blocking Chris Paul, those same Warriors fans blanketed the officials in boos.
The loudest cheers of the night might've come not for a scoring play, but for a Curry lob that Brandon Rush finished after the whistle halfway through the third quarter.
That is, until Andre Iguodala flushed home a Curry missed three to put the Warriors up, 115-99, late in the fourth quarter.
By that time, most of the Clippers fans who might've otherwise drowned out their Golden State counterparts had already left the building, another Warriors win all but in the books. What few stuck around until the final buzzer were treated to rounds of "WAAAAAARRIORRRRS" chants before the end of the Clippers bench forced Golden State's "Uh-Oh" lineup back on the floor for the final five seconds.
The Clippers did what they could to make the Warriors uncomfortable, particularly in the second half. They hammered the Splash Brothers whenever possible, made Draymond Green work for his dinner and, at times in the third quarter, turned what had been a beautiful display of basketball into a 94-foot game of body-on-body volleyball.
But as much clamor as the remaining Clippers fans made before C.J. Wilcox's game-ending prayer went unanswered, they couldn't quite hold a candle to the chunk of Dub Nation that wouldn't leave.
It wasn't always this way for the Warriors—especially in L.A., where they've become Public Enemy No. 1 to the Clippers and their fans. Golden State has long enjoyed vociferous support at Oracle Arena in Oakland, but only recently has that gospel swept into other gyms.
"It’s dope when we get a chance to come here, Steph’s at the free-throw line and he’s getting 'MVP' chants in opposing arenas or we’re hearing 'Warriors' chanted in opposing arenas," Harrison Barnes said following an efficient 18-point performance. "That’s something that we’ve seen grow over the years. I think that’s just a testament to our fanbase being the best fans in the NBA."
That's one of the perks of being not only a champion, but a fascinatingly superb squad replete with fan-friendly personalities like Curry and Draymond Green. It's also something to which the Warriors have become accustomed, however tentatively.
"At this point, it’s been happening all year," Green said after coming through with his league-leading 11th triple-double of 2015-16 while battling DeAndre Jordan at center in Bogut's stead. "Can’t say you grow to expect it because that’s special. That’s one of those things that you don’t want to take for granted, but that’s definitely something that’s been kind of happening all year."
In truth, it's been happening for longer than that. During Game 6 of the 2015 Finals, before the Warriors indulged in champagne showers to celebrate clinching the franchise's first championship in 40 years, they were doused with the team's signature chant on the Cleveland Cavaliers' home court.
"It’s something that’ll stick with me forever," Steve Kerr said.
Golden State could recapture that same feeling in Quicken Loans Arena this spring if the Cavaliers defend their Eastern Conference crown. Along the way, it'll have every opportunity to rewrite the record books.
And not just the hallowed mark for regular-season wins. Within the Warriors' Russian nesting doll of potential milestones and records is their pursuit of all-time road excellence.
The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, of 33-straight-wins fame, own the record for road winning percentage at 81.6 percent (31-7). The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, of 72-10 fame, set the all-time mark for victories away from home with 33.
Nine more wins outside of Oracle Arena would give Golden State, now 25-5 on the road, both records. Three more in Oakland, and the Warriors will best those Bulls for the longest home winning streak in NBA history. Both marks would bring Curry and Co. that much closer to that hallowed regular-season record that Jordan's (and Kerr's) Bulls compiled 20 years ago.
As it happens, that Chicago team, with His Airness at the controls, was every bit as popular during its second three-peat as Curry and the Warriors have become during their title defense.
"A lot of Michael Jordan jerseys in the stands," recalled Kerr, who was Chicago's sharpest shooter long before he began coaching the Warriors. "You’ve seen it with Kobe [Bryant] his whole career. You see Kobe jerseys on the road, a lot of yellow. We’ve sort of entered that phase, which is pretty flattering."
But, as NBA.com's David Aldridge noted, the reception these Warriors are getting on the road is decidedly warmer than what those Bulls faced:
Jordan's Bulls were loved by millions, but there was also a hint of danger with them when they came to town -- like if you didn't capitulate, they could plunder the town, steal your girlfriends and take all the choice parking spots. That's not the case with the Warriors. Opposing fans seem to almost wish for a beatdown, if it means they can watch Curry drop three or four seemingly impossible shots, or watch the Warriors' tic-tac-toe passing end in a layup or a Thompson shot on the weakside.
Granted, being such a draw isn't just fun and games. For all the converts the Warriors have accumulated across the NBA landscape, there's still no hiding the Larry O'Brien-sized bull's-eye on their backs.
"We know we’re going to get teams’ best shots every night and you can expect them, no matter how they’ve been playing up until our game ... they’re going to come out ready to play, especially when we’re on the road," Curry said in Portland. "We understand that and the atmosphere helps drive that point home even more."
For Curry and the Warriors, there are other, more pressing matters to attend to. Despite their record-setting pace (at 49-5, they own the best record in NBA history through 54 games), they're only three-and-a-half games up on the San Antonio Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Golden State's schedule won't make hanging on to that spot, let alone chasing ghosts, an easy task. It still has three games to play against the Spurs, two opposite the Oklahoma City Thunder and an actual home date with these Clippers in late March.
No matter how tough the going gets for Golden State, this club can count on folks in familiar jerseys bringing the noise and funk of the East Bay wherever it roams.
As Green put it, "Dub Nation roll thick."
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@JoshMartinNBA), Instagram and Facebook.