With eyes on lottery, Warriors fans cheer losing
Golden State Warriors fans have proven over the years to be among the most loyal in the NBA.
Tuesday night, they demonstrated they also might be the most intelligent.
In a you-had-to-be-there-to-believe-it turn of events, the Warriors faithful actually applauded a great defensive play by New Orleans unknown Gustavo Ayon and then roared in approval when their own Chris Wright was guilty of a game-losing goaltending violation in the final seconds of an 83-81 home loss to the Hornets.
It was the first game of the Bob Myers era as general manager, and chances are the ex-agent will never see another like it.
Having recorded an improbable victory Sunday at Minnesota in their third game in three nights, the Warriors took the Oracle Arena court on Tuesday knowing a win over the lowly Hornets would almost assuredly cost Golden State its first-round draft pick in June.
The Warriors must land among the bottom seven teams after the draft lottery in order to keep their first pick. Otherwise, it goes to Utah as part of a trade the Warriors made with New Jersey.
A 24th win Tuesday would have assured the Warriors would enter the lottery with either the eighth- or ninth-worst record. Their chances of finishing in the bottom seven under those circumstances would have been less than 10 percent.
Instead, a 42nd loss put the Warriors in the likely position of tying either New Jersey or Toronto for seventh-worst record, setting up unquestionably the most important coin flip in franchise history. The winner of that coin flip will have a better than 50-50 chance of retaining the seventh pick (or better) following the lottery.
With just one game remaining, the Warriors will tie the winner of Thursday’s Nets-Raptors game in the final standings if Golden State should lose that night at home to San Antonio.
It wouldn’t have been possible if not for perhaps the most exciting final five seconds of a Warriors game all season.
With the score tied at 81 in the final minute, the Warriors missed two consecutive shots, but kept possession thanks to a pair of Chris Wright offensive rebounds.
Charles Jenkins ran down the clock from the point and drove to the hoop with five seconds remaining. But Ayon blocked Jenkins’ close-range shot, and the Hornets found Marco Belinelli upcourt on a breakaway.
With the Oakland crowd cheering wildly for Belinelli to beat the final buzzer, Golden State’s Wright incredibly caught the ex-Warrior from behind and blocked his layup at the rim with seventh-tenths of a second to go, only to be called for goaltending.