OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Chants of "Playoffs! Playoffs! Playoffs!" rang out from fans. Confetti flew around the lower bowl of the arena. Finally, the public address announcer told the crowd what they had longed to hear: "The Golden State Warriors are heading to the 2013 NBA playoffs!"
Klay Thompson scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half, Stephen Curry added 24 points and 10 assists and the Warriors clinched their first playoff berth since 2007 by routing the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-89 on Tuesday night.
"We celebrated. Rightfully so," teary-eyed and red-faced Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after emerging from the locker room. "People questioned us, and they should have. People doubted us, and they should have. They underestimated the heart, the desire, the work ethic, the determination, the willingness to put in the time."
At long last, Bay Area basketball fans have reason to cheer again.
David Lee finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds to propel the Warriors to just their second postseason appearance in 19 years. Co-owner Joe Lacob shared hugs and handshakes with fans from his courtside seat, raising his right hand to the 30th straight sellout crowd announced at 19,596.
Booed off the very same floor a year ago, Lacob savored this one.
"I was chanting playoffs," a smiling Lacob said in the locker room. "I'm happy, too. We're excited. We should be. We should enjoy this. I've got my son (assistant general manger Kirk Lacob), he's very competitive. He's like, 'Why are we celebrating?' But the truth is, I told him, 'You've got to celebrate the little moments, too. Every step counts. This is an important first step for this franchise."
Reserve Chase Budinger scored 17 points and Andrei Kirilenko had 15 points for the depleted Timberwolves, who were outshot 43 to 37 percent. Ricky Rubio missed all 10 shots from the floor to go with six assists and five rebounds as Minnesota watched the Warriors celebrate something it had hoped to accomplish this season.
"We didn't play good at all. That's it," Rubio said.
After blowing a chance to seal a playoff spot against Utah on Sunday night, the Warriors needed a win and a loss by the Los Angeles Lakers or the Jazz to clinch this time. Golden State knew it had a chance before halftime, when a team official whispered in Jackson's ear that Utah fell 90-80 to Oklahoma City, which also flashed across the corner scoreboards.
Jackson informed players in the locker room during the break.
"He just told us we're 24 minutes from accomplishing what some of us have been waiting for our whole career," said Lee, who's heading to the postseason for the first time in eight NBA seasons. "I know I have been. Feels great, but we want more."
Thompson made his first nine shots from the floor, including five from beyond the arc, before Curry and Co. found their rhythm. The Warriors went ahead by 18 early in the fourth quarter and left little doubt about what this win meant.
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