The Warriors celebrated the first official home game of the Joe Lacob-Peter Guber ownership by promptly spoiling their new bosses with a first half for the ages.
Then the Warriors just as promptly delivered a second half which might have left the owners wondering what they'd just bought into. The Warriors squandered almost all of a 32-point lead before hanging on for a 101-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Oracle Arena.
It was a fitting game for the half-price night the Lacob-Guber group gave to the fans as a welcoming gift. The Warriors proceeded to give a first-rate, full-price show -- for a half.
The second half, well "... if nothing else, they made it thrilling.
"Well, we're in the entertainment business, so we are going to make sure our fans get their money's worth," said Warriors coach Keith Smart afterward in a needed moment of gallows humor. "But it may put the coaches, ownership and general manager in the hospital."
The Warriors never gave up the lead they first assumed with 3:36 to go in the opening quarter, but they came closer than they ever could have wanted. With Stephen Curry missing most of the third quarter because of foul trouble and Monta Ellis on the bench with five fouls for nearly seven minutes of the fourth quarter, the Pistons kept creeping closer.
"It was very hard to watch," said Ellis, echoing the sentiments of the 19,123 in attendance. It was a far cry from a first half in which Ellis scored 21 first-quarter points, the Warriors went on an astounding 22-0 run and led 65-33 with 1:56 to go before the break.
By the end, Detroit had clawed back and actually trailed by just two, 98-96, and had possession with 14.2 seconds left with a chance to tie or win the game. Forward Dorell Wright may have saved the day, however, by stealing the ball from Pistons guard Ben Gordon with 6.1 seconds left, which set up a free-throw battle the rest of the way that the Warriors managed to survive.
Gordon was being guarded by Curry, and as he moved left of the Warriors guard to start a drive toward the key, Wright reached in from the side and deflected the ball away.
"I just know what type of player Ben Gordon is," Wright said. "I've been in the East, so I know a lot of these guys. I knew he wasn't looking to pass. I knew he wanted to hit the big shot. So I was just reading it, and as soon as he didn't see me, I reached in, used my length and got the steal."
Ellis made one of two free throws with 5.7 seconds left to make it 99-96, and after Charlie Villanueva made one of two free shots for Detroit on the other end with 3.8 seconds to go, Rodney Carney was fouled on a breakaway and sealed the game with two more free throws with 2.7 seconds on the clock.
Lacob and Guber, who stepped onto the court to introduce themselves to a near full house between the first and second quarters, were treated to some occurrences they probably shouldn't count on seeing every night.
For starters, there was Ellis' electric opening quarter. It looked like he was en route to eclipsing his career high of 46 set on opening night after he Ellis hit seven of his first nine shots, including his only 3-point try, as well as six free throws, in the first 11 minutes. He would score just six more the rest of the way to lead all scorers with 27.
Then, as a group, the Warriors did something even more extraordinary -- they went on a 22-0 run that turned a 21-20 deficit into a 42-21 lead. When they kept expanding on it, it looked as if it would be a laugher.
But as often happens to teams that mount huge leads early, the Warriors couldn't sustain their incredible momentum. The Pistons scored the final nine points of the first half to cut the lead to 23, and continued to chip away throughout the second half.
The lead still seemed relatively safe at 18 after three quarters, but with Ellis picking up his fifth foul and on the bench for much of the final period, the Pistons made their final push that came up just short.