SAN FRANCISCO – A volcano of energy emanated from the Chase Center Sunday night. The Warriors were fired up as Klay Thompson made his triumphant return to the court for the first time since June 13, 2019.
As jolted as the Warriors were, could you imagine how it must have felt to be the Cleveland Cavaliers? The nine players who made coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotation Sunday night walked into an unenviable situation. Warriors coach Steve Kerr had the benefit of 18,064 fans who had been waiting for this moment for two-and-a-half years.
Following the Warriors’ 96-82 win, a reporter asked Cavs center Jarrett Allen if it felt like a playoff-type atmosphere.
“I’m going to take it one step further, it felt like a Finals game,” Allen said, via Warriors PR. “I mean, everything that the Warriors did they got a big cheer from the crowd, but that is to be expected when you come to the Chase Center. They have great fans here and they are going to make the game intense. We kinda looked at the moment and we kinda – J.B. said in the locker room that we shied away from it – and I think that is true. We didn’t play to who we are, we kinda played timidly.”
For what it’s worth, Allen is 1-8 in his playoff career, including two first-round exits with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019-20. He doesn’t quite have the experience of going to five straight NBA Finals, like Thompson, Kerr, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, four of which came against the LeBron James-led Cavs.
Still, the 23-year-old’s statement spoke to the electricity in the air Sunday night. With the win, the Warriors are now 18-3 at home this season and 30-9 overall.
“I thought it was a great atmosphere tonight,” Cavs forward Lamar Stevens said. “These are the games that you dream about playing in.”
Bickerstaff’s squad is 22-18 and hanging on to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern conference. The team just acquired 35-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo to shore up the massive loss of Ricky Rubio, who tore his ACL in late December. But the team’s core players – Darius Garland (21), Evan Mobley (20) and Allen are all 23 or younger.
“It’s a great experience for our young group to be faced with that,” Bickerstaff said. “There were times where I felt we were overtaken by the moment as a team. We were uncharacteristic of ourselves tonight in certain moments.”
Klay is back. The Golden State Gravitas is back. Big Dubs Energy is back.