The Santa Cruz Warriors lost to the Oklahoma City Blue on Sunday night at Oracle Arena. However, they were able to set a new D-League attendance record packing in nearly 17,500 fans, shattering the prior record of 15,011.
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Santa Cruz Warriors (18-15) made the trip from the friendly confines of Kaiser Permanente Arena, 65 miles up the road to the home of NBA affiliate Golden State, to play a game against the Oklahoma City Blue (25-11) at Oracle Arena.
Not only was the stage much bigger, playing in front of a D-League record 17,497 fans, but the lights were much brighter, as the game was broadcast to tens of thousands of fans on Golden State’s home TV and radio networks.
“I think it could absolutely do great things, especially in the Bay Area. A lot of people haven’t been able to make it down to Santa Cruz to see the level of play,” Coach Casey Hill said of what a game like this could mean to the growth of the D-League, “I think a lot of people’s eyes are going to be open to the talent pool that is the D-League.”
“We know it’s going to be fun, we know we are going to have a pretty decent crowd out there,” forward Scott Wood told us before the game. “At the end of the day it’s still another ball game. It’s one we need to win. It’s a really good team we’re going to face so we just have to be ready to execute.”
Unfortunately for Santa Cruz, they could not get it done in front of the record-setting Oracle Arena crowd, falling to the Blue 105-96. Santa Cruz had their chances to steal a game against one of the league’s top teams, but once they gave up their 11-point lead, they weren’t able to quite recover.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams struggling from the field. Santa Cruz shot 33.3 percent from the floor in the first period of play including 1-for-7 from behind the arc. Warriors’ guard Terrence Drisdom provided a spark off the bench, knocking down his very first shot attempt, Santa Cruz’s only three of the quarter. Nevertheless, the Sea Dubs managed to carry a 19-17 lead into the first intermission.
The Blue made a quick run to start the 2nd quarter, outscoring Santa Cruz 7-2 in the opening minutes. The Warriors answered right back with a run of their own before Oklahoma City stormed back yet again.
Surf City forward James Southerland came alive in the second quarter, knocking down four triples, one of which gave Santa Cruz a 37-35 lead late in the quarter. Both teams traded blows throughout the first half as Santa Cruz began to find their rhythm from the floor, extending their lead as the break neared. The Warriors took a 51-41 lead into the half which was capped by a Stephen Curry-esque half court heave from Scott Wood at the buzzer; the record crowd at Oracle erupted appropriately.
“We moved the ball, we attacked close outs, and we got into their paint,” Coach Hill said of the 2nd quarter spark, “They are a really good defensive team and any time you can force them deep into the shot clock by moving the ball and getting paint penetration you are going to put yourself in a position to get open shots and that’s what we did.”
Southerland, who finished the game with a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds made all four of his shots behind the arc in that 2nd quarter.
“This is an Oklahoma City team that was basically trying to pack it in [the paint], daring us to take some shots,” Southerland said of his big quarter, “At first they weren’t falling, but then we started knocking them down which made them scramble a little bit.”
The Blue wasted no time cutting into the lead early, slowly chipping away. By the 5:21 mark of the 3rd quarter we were back to square one, even at 63. Both teams continued to go tit-for-tat until OKC made a late run, giving them a 81-74 lead entering the 4th quarter.
The Blue carried that 3rd quarter momentum forward, keeping a couple possession lead for a majority of the 4th period. The Warriors, however, did some chipping of their own into the lead cutting the deficit to as little as 3 with 4:23 left after a LaDontae Henton triple. However, back-to-back Blue three’s made Santa Cruz’s hole just a little too deep to dig out of.
“It was our offense. They only scored 105 points. They scored 138 last night. They’ve proven they can score. We defended well, we just didn’t capitalize on our stops,” Hill said of the late breakdown, “It was very obvious we had played last night.”
While the game did not turn out how Santa Cruz would have liked, the record number crowd added a bright spot to the night. When asked about the atmosphere in the building, both players and coaches echoed the fact that it felt like Oracle Arena when Steph Curry and the NBA’s best team are on the court.
“It was great. In my three games of an NBA career [with Golden State], it was the same equivalency of an NBA game,” Scott Wood said post-game, “It was a lot of fun, obviously we wanted a different turn out, but at the same time it was good exposure for the Santa Cruz Warriors and will hopefully spark the eyes of other D-League programs to do the same.”
“It was awesome. It was just like a normal Golden State home game,” Coach Hill added.
Santa Cruz will head back on the road to face this same team in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Warriors will look to rebound and gain some ground in the Western Conference where they are currently 1.5 games behind the fourth place Rio Grande Valley Vipers.