OAKLAND, Calif. – Stephen Curry's mom Sonya screamed in excitement and eventually gave her son a hug and a kiss on the cheek once she caught up with him. Golden State Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber yelled out, "One more win." More than a dozen Warriors fans held up beers in the air near an arena bar to salute the team's victory.
Warriors fans in Oracle Arena and at watch parties all over the Bay Area were celebrating a 104-91 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday. The Warriors are now one win away from their first NBA championship in 40 years. But inside the Warriors' locker room, there was healthy concern knowing that the last and most important victory for a title would be the hardest to get.
"Ooh, I hope that was the last game here this season," Curry muttered to himself in the Warriors' locker room.
No Warriors player had ever played in the Finals until this season, but the team is aware of the difficulty in closing out a series. The Warriors are also aware of what awaits them in Cleveland for Tuesday's Game 6.
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala offered some words of wisdom when the team huddled in the locker room.
"He talked about how hard it is to close out a regular playoff series," said Curry, who needed to be treated for dehydration after scoring 37 points in the game. "With a team like that, imagine how hard it's going to be to finish a Finals series, especially on the road. We have to play with the mentality that it's going to be the hardest game we will probably play in our lives.
"I do [believe that]. That's what I'm imagining a potential title-winning game will be."
Curry and Draymond Green are the vocal leaders of the Warriors. But considering how Iguodala has accepted the daunting task of primarily guarding James, he deserved to be heard.
"Just being in the league for 11 years and never being in this moment and knowing how hard it is, I'm just excited to get back on the court and just playing as hard as possible," Iguodala said. "Win, lose or draw, just knowing I gave it my all throughout the whole process. I don't think a trophy or a ring can really signify who you are as a person, but the work you put in kind of says it all."
The last and only time the Warriors won an NBA championship was back in 1975 after sweeping the Washington Bullets. Rick Barry, the 1975 Finals MVP, attended the Warriors' Game 5 victory and felt confident that his old team will earn a second championship on Tuesday.
"It's just another game," Barry said. "It just happens to be a game where you can win the championship if you win it. It's just about staying focused on defense. Their defense the last two games is what saved them. They haven't played real well offensively an extended period of time, and they won both of the games.
"If they focus on defense, the offense gets going and they don't take bad shots and they move the basketball, they should be fine. If they play the way they are capable of playing for just three quarters, they are going to win easily. They're a better team."
The pressure will be heavy on James and the Cavaliers on Thursday. The Warriors have some breathing room with a worst-case scenario of a Game 7 at home on Friday.
"There is no pressure when you believe in yourself," Barry said. "There is only pressure when you don't have confidence. I've lived by that. If you believe in yourself and you've practiced your whole life to do what you're supposed to do, it's not pressure, it's just great expectations.
"The pressure of the game is monumental. But it's only pressure when you believe in yourself."
Barry makes it sound so easy for the Warriors to win the title in Cleveland. But he also has a ring and never lacked confidence. The current Warriors aren't as brash. And as much as they love their home fans at Oracle Arena, they would rather be spraying champagne on each other and holding up the championship trophy in Cleveland.
"One more man," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "That's all I can think about."