OAKLAND — They were on their feet at the beginning and again at the end, for they had come not to merely cheer the Warriors but to dive into the ears of the Denver Nuggets and shatter the drums.

The NBA Playoffs returned to the Bay Area on Friday night, 19,596 fans rolling into Oracle Arena to shower affection upon the Warriors while simultaneously trying to destroy the focus of the favored Nuggets.

The sellout crowd certainly will take the result, a pulsating 110-108 Game 3 victory that gives the Warriors a two-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series.

The "Screaming O" was back, after a six-year postseason absence, and if the noise levels happened to crack the concrete walls, well, so be it.

In the final seconds, as the arena DJ played Eminem's "Lose Yourself," the crowd, on its feet, nearly lost its collective mind. And when a last-gasp shot by Denver's Andre Iguodala glanced off the rim at the buzzer, the party was on.

The victory chorus: Waaarrr-iors, Waaarrr-iors, Waaarrr-iors.

"It was unbelievable," CEO Joe Lacob said through a mile-wide smile. "This crowd was just an incredible advantage for us. And we needed them tonight."

Peter Guber, the Warriors co-executive chairman and longtime entertainment executive, compared this to a moment under the bright lights of Hollywood.

"It feels like the premiere of 'Batman,' " said Guber, who was the producer of that 1989 movie. "There is the excitement, the anticipation, that sense of wonder, of being a part of something special."


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There was no red carpet but this had the feel of a major event. As it should, for this is only the franchise's second playoff appearance in 19 seasons and their first since 2007.

The Warriors laid bright yellow T-shirts, the color of the sun, over every seatback, a gift to fans and an attempt to colorize the arena -- if not blind the opposing Nuggets.

Posters at least 30 feet tall hung outside the arena, one featuring star point guard Stephen Curry in full roar and the other with the visage of snarling 7-foot center Andrew Bogut. The message on each was simple: The Bay's Team PLAYS LOUD.

That was the plan, for the crowd to be loud. Drown Denver with sound. Needle the Nuggets with noise.

It was enough to energize the underdog Warriors, who trailed by 12 at the half and rallied in the third quarter to go up three.

"That third quarter, wow," Lacob said, sweating through his yellow T-shirt after shedding his dark blue blazer. "We were just hanging in and they urged us on. I would say this was a group effort."

The crowd was fully engaged from start. The building shook when a video montage of the Bay Area -- from the Bay Bridge to San Francisco to San Jose and back to Oakland -- preceded the introduction of the Warriors.

With fans on their feet, bellowing on their own and also responding to the urgings of the video screens, the noise was a factor. Players had a hard time hearing the referee's whistle. Coaches shouted and stomped to little avail.

Yet Oracle's wall of sound, while impressive early, was not quite as head-rattling as that of 2007, when the "We Believe" Warriors, after nabbing the final playoff berth on the last night of the season, engineered a stunning upset of top-seeded Dallas.

But it came very close to those decibel levels during that third quarter rally.

"Unbelievable," Jarrett Jack said. "We got down 12 and we weren't playing our best basketball, and they still stayed with us."

Bay Area sports fans have been fortunate of late. The Sharks are a perennial playoff team. The Giants and A's last October reached the baseball postseason, with San Francisco winning the World Series for the second time in three years. Only 21/2 months ago, the 49ers were in the Super Bowl.

And now we have the Warriors, adored but unaccomplished, objects of the sickest kind of unconditional love, daring to slay another NBA beast. The crowd clearly believes it can will this team to greater heights.

Hey, it worked for a while in '07.

It seemed to work Friday night.

So imagine, if you dare, the noise in store Sunday evening, when coach Mark Jackson's wife, Desiree Coleman Jackson, kicks off the Game 4 festivities with what surely will be a gospel-drenched rendition of the national anthem.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/1montepoole.