Stephen Curry has already lost games by 50 points. His first 50-point game came at Madison Square Garden in 2013. His 54 points got him close, but 35 from Carmelo Anthony gave the Knicks a four-point victory. The Warriors lost the 2021 game again, in which Curry lost 57 because Dallas was able to take a two-point victory thanks to Luka Doncic’s 42 points. On these occasions, the Warriors were either limping with injuries or they weren’t quite the team they would one day be. Curry was great, but another star led a superior team to a very difficult victory.
It didn’t happen on Wednesday either. The Warriors were almost at full strength with Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins all healthy. Their opponent, the Phoenix Suns, played without Chris Paul, Cam Johnson and Jay Crowder. Their top scorer was Cameron Payne with 29 points. No Sun made more than 17 shots in a game. Curry made 17 shots in a game. And yet the game never felt especially close in the second half. Phoenix led by a whopping 18 points and ended up winning 130-119.
“We lack collective grit,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr. mourned after the game. “And when you don’t have the guts, the game becomes easy for the other team.” There is some truth in this statement. Gary Payton II, their defensive ace who retired from the G-League, fell victim to the luxury tax this offseason and now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. Otto Porter, Jr. also left.
But the core trio of Green, Thompson and Curry, who have won four championships together, are still in place. So does head coach Steve Kerr. Kevon Looney, arguably the most relentless RPG on the list, is still here. Andre Iguodala is on the list, although he does not play. If there was once strength of mind on this list, then, logically, it should be there now.
And yet, the Warriors are now 27th in the NBA defense rating. They are 0-8 away without a win and have just taken the Suns to 130 points, missing out on a lot of key figures. If the season ended today, the Warriors wouldn’t even make it to the play-in round.
There is plenty of time to fix this. It’s not even Thanksgiving, and the Warriors have won enough playoff road games to not care too much about the crops. But the 15-game sample is significant, and for all the criticism that Golden State’s young players have received for such a slow start, it’s worth noting that James Wiseman and Jonathan Cuminga didn’t play tonight, and Moses Moody only saw the floor in fourth quarter. The veterans of the Golden State were on the floor when Phoenix scored 70 points in the first half. They need to be better no matter who comes off the bench. If not? They will spoil many more Curry masterpieces before this season ends.