The 2006-2007 Warriors season will be forever marked as one of the most exciting times in Golden State’s history.
The unforgettable playoff upset against the Dallas Mavericks cemented Warriors fans as the loudest and most passionate fans in the NBA. The franchise had long suffered from an era of mediocrity. Before the season began, the Warriors held the record for the most consecutive seasons without a single playoff appearance. To put things in perspective, the franchise and its fans had not felt the sweet taste of the postseason since 1994, when Chris Webber won rookie of the year. Suffering from a long playoff drought, a history of injuries, bad trades and draft busts, the Warriors were again predicted to fall out the playoff race.
During the offseason, veteran and former Warriors head coach Don Nelson was hired to take the reigns once again. Then-journeyman Matt Barnes was also inserted into the starting lineup. At the beginning of January, the Warriors had a meager record of just 17 wins and 16 losses. On January 17th, 2007 the Warriors underwent a major roster overhaul, sending Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu, and Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Josh Powell. Jackson and Harrington eventually proved to be key pieces to the overall success of the team.
With Jackson and Harrington inserted into the lineup, the Warriors could fully unleash their firepower under Don Nelson’s run-and-gun offense. The Warriors’ “Cinderella story” season began following a defeat to the Washington Wizards on March 4th, dropping their record to 27-35. After that game, the Warriors sparked a huge surge winning 16 of their last 21 games of the season, earning a 42-40 record and barely clinching the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The franchise then adopted the mantra of “We Believe” heading into the playoffs, with every fan at Oracle sporting a golden shirt with the slogan .
Once again, Golden State was considered a massive underdog when the team was matched with the No. 1-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who had lost only five home games during the entire regular season. The Mavericks, who had just been defeated by Miami in the Finals the previous season, finished the regular season with a record of 67 wins and 15 losses. Dirk Nowitzki had a historic run, joining the 50-40-90 club, and was eventually selected to be the 2007 NBA MVP. Despite sweeping Dallas 3-0 in the regular season, many experts predicted the Warriors to fall easily to Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
During Game 1, Nelson went with a small-ball line up of Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson, and Al Harrington, who was their tallest starting player at 6’9″. Coming off the bench were quick, lanky swingmen in Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus, and a serviceable big man in Andris Biedrins (who eventually became a shell of his former self). With almost every player being able to handle the ball, run the floor and knock down the 3, Golden State’s frenzy proved too much for Dallas to handle. Not only was their brand of basketball extremely entertaining, but it also was proven to be devastating against the Mavericks. Even after a made shot by a Maverick, the Warriors would always be seen pushing the ball up the court with Davis leading the break. Every player spaced the floor correctly which allowed Davis to attack the rim or kick the ball out to an open man. Davis and Barnes were also able to initiate the break with bullet half-court and inbound passes. With a near triple double, Davis led the Warriors to a Game 1 victory on Dallas’ home floor with 33 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals.
After dropping Game 2 in Dallas, the Warriors returned home to Oakland, where the Mavericks were forced to face the fury of Oracle Arena. The electric atmosphere in Oracle, powered by a sea of yellow and deafening fans who were depraved of the playoffs for 13 years, provided the Warriors the energy to defeat the Mavericks in back-to-back games at home. The Warriors, with a commanding 3-1 lead, failed to close out the series in five games at Dallas. However, Game 6 proved to be one of the most memorable games in franchise history. Stephen Jackson led the way with 33 points and a franchise playoff record of seven threes. During a 24-3 run in the 3rd quarter, Jackson scored 13 straight points and created a gap that Dallas failed to overcome. Jackson also held Nowitzki to eight points (2-for-13 shooting). The Warriors crushed Dallas in a 111-86 victory, earning them the first playoff series win since 1991. They became the first eighth seed in NBA history to defeat a first seed in a seven game series.
Ending a Historic Season
The Warriors went on to face the Utah Jazz in the semi-finals. The Warriors’ frantic style was unable to faze the much larger and defensive-minded Jazz. Jazz big men Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko provided the size and inside presence needed to halt the Warriors’ playoff run. Barring a Game 3 blowout win (and Baron Davis’ vicious poster over Kirilenko) at Oracle, the Warriors were handily defeated in five games, putting an end to a memorable season.
The “We Believe” Warriors revitalized the franchise and established the Golden State fan base as one of the best in the NBA. Nelson was able to unite a cast of misfits and utilize a unique style of basketball that was always exciting to watch. Although the Warriors failed to reach the postseason again until the rise of Stephen Curry in 2013, the 2007 playoff run will always be remembered for its roaring home games, golden shirts, Jessica Alba, poster dunks, fast breaks, three-point barrages, and a historical upset.