BY RYAN LEONG
Although the Warriors got their enormously sized rings and unveiled their second championship banner in three seasons, it was not the happy ending everyone wanted.
The Houston Rockets, whom the Dubs have beaten like a drum in recent years, came back from a 17 point deficit and spoiled the festivities scoring a 122-121 win over Golden State last night at Oracle Arena.
The pre-game ceremonies were hyped up just right for a Warriors fan base that wants to relish all of their recent success. A long white cloth dropped down from the scoreboard to the floor and the 2017 Championship logo was projected over it.
After a video montage, the cloth dropped again to reveal the entire team wearing special warmup suits with the 2017 championship logo embroidered on the back.
Commissioner Adam Silver was on hand as a special guest to deliver a celebratory message. “From a collection of the very best players in the world, your Warriors emerged victorious,” Silver told the crowd. “They represent the very best values in all of sports, in all of life. Inclusion, diversity, leadership, character. Those values are what stand behind this league. Tonight, we celebrate this championship team as they set goals and they go out once again to show this league that they’re the very best.”
At one corner of the court near the Rockets bench, one member from each of the Warriors previous four championship teams (two in Philadelphia) stood next to their respective title banner: Festus Ezeli (2014-15), Jamaal Wilkes (1974-75), Ernie Beck (1955-56) and the son of the late Howie Dallmar (1946-47).
Then, Silver awarded rings beginning with owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Following team president Rick Welts, each of the players was given their ring, an enormous diamond encrusted piece in a box that was almost as big as the one used in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The game itself began as a typical one played by Golden State. The Warriors jumped out to a 17 point first half lead. Most impressive was the newest acquisition, Nick Young. “Swaggy P” as he self-proclaimed, scored 23 points off the bench and made his first five shots, four from 3-point range.
Steph Curry finished with 22 points and Kevin Durant had 20. Draymond Green added 11 rebounds, 13 assists and nine points. He fell one point shy of a triple-double and left the game late in the third quarter after driving to the basket. He was defended by Trevor Ariza and appeared to have collided with him.
Green made two free throws and then went to the locker room with a strained left knee. Without his defensive presence, along with the absence of Andre Iguodala who is out with a strained back, the Rockets took advantage by outscoring Golden State 34-20 in the fourth quarter.
All-Star and MVP candidate James Harden scored 27 points with Eric Gordon adding 24. Defensive specialist PJ Tucker poured in 20 with four of his six shots coming from long distance.
Patrick McCaw made a 20-foot jump shot with 1:43 remaining but the Warriors wouldn’t score again. Curry attempted a 3-pointer with five seconds left and Shaun Livingston tipped the ball to a wide open Durant along the left baseline. Durant nailed the shot but unfortunately the ball didn’t leave his hand until after the final buzzer sounded with replays clearly showing the backboard lit in red indicating time expired. For a moment, it was pandemonium as Warriors fans celebrated along with some players while some Rockets players walked off the court looking dejected.
In his postgame presser, coach Steve Kerr admitted the better team won. “The right outcome happened,” Kerr said. “We deserved to lose. They outplayed us. We had control of the game most of the way, but it never felt like we were executing or defending at a high level.”
Curry said it best when asked about his thoughts on the first game and the ring ceremony. “Some good things happened but it is kind of sobering with all that happened before the game to leave here with a loss, but we’ll be all right.”
And if history is an indication of anything, last season’s home opener was a 129-100 loss to the Spurs. It ended with a 15-1 postseason record and a parade through downtown Oakland.
Ryan Leong is a San Francisco native and covers all Bay Area sports teams as a correspondent for ESPN radio and wire services. He is a former sports anchor for KCBS and has reported on over 3,600 live games since 1998.