Basketball

Warriors seek one last win in farewell to NBA's oldest arena

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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Oakland, United States (AFP) — There's one last tip-off coming for the Golden State Warriors at the NBA's oldest arena, with the reigning league champions hoping to pull off one last victory for Oakland fans.

The Warriors defeated Toronto 106-105 Monday to pull within 3-2 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals, forcing a game six Thursday at Oracle Arena.

“Our goal was to get them back on the plane, get them back to Oakland,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “We owe our fans one more game in Oracle.”

With Golden State moving to a new US$1-billion arena in San Francisco for next season, the play-off matchup marks the final contest at the 53-year-old venue, which the Warriors have called home since 1971.

After losing twice at Oracle to the Raptors last week, the Warriors would force a winner-take-all seventh game Sunday in Toronto if they can pull off a final home victory at Oracle.

“It has been an incredible experience to play and coach at Oracle and hopefully we can go out in style,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“We're going to miss it here for sure. We're looking forward to the new arena; it's going to be amazing — but we'll always miss Oracle.”

The arena, originally built for a National Hockey League expansion team that only lasted from 1967-1976, has hosted 66 concerts of The Grateful Dead, the band's most appearances at any venue.

The Warriors won two NBA titles while based in Philadelphia, before moving to California, and captured another in 1975, but have won three of the past four in their current dynasty run.

The only title won by the Warriors at Oracle Arena came in 2017 when Golden State defeated Cleveland in five games.

“This building has been very special,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “So I think it's a very special time.

“This building has been great to us. It has been great to myself and all the guys that I've played with, and we definitely want to close it out the right way and hang another banner on our way out.”

Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, recalled a seven-game, first-round play-off loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013 when asked about his favourite moments, recalling the loud support from a fan base that had seen only two prior play-off trips since 1994.

“First play-off series here was pretty exciting,” he said. “We hadn't priced out many people yet, so it was good.

“We've had a great support system with our fans, one of the best fan bases in the whole Bay Area. Being on the Oakland side, they really have been with this team throughout good and bad, so it would be sweet to end it well for them.”

Kerr recalled his playing days as a visitor to the arena and how Warriors fans backed their club in lean times.

“A lot of my favourite memories come from being a player here and marvelling at the energy in this building coming from a crowd that did not have a whole lot to cheer for, frankly,” Kerr said.

“The Warriors went through a long, dry spell and yet you would come here and there was an atmosphere, an energy you could feel.”

That makes leaving Oakland a bit tougher for Warriors guard Shaun Livingston.

“It's bittersweet,” he said. “At the end, it's a lot of history here, tradition, very prideful players.

“We play for our fans here, all the support they gave us throughout the years. It means a lot to be able to play in front of this city.”


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