On night Steph drops 50, joyless Dubs' season hits new low

by 24USATVNov. 17, 2022, 11 a.m. 16
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PHOENIX -- The Warriors' 2022-23 season is 15 games old. Only 18 percent of their campaign is complete. There still are 67 games to go. Point blank, though, Golden State's year reached a new low point Wednesday night in their 130-119 loss to the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.

Steph Curry scoring 50 points should have been the story of the night. Well, it is. But instead of celebrating another feat on an infinite scroll of accomplishments, the story from the Warriors' latest loss is all about how they wasted yet another night of him being the greatest show in sports.

Curry completed his 11th career 50-point game. This was only the third time the result has been a loss. By the time he came out of the game with 1:42 remaining in the loss, his teammates had scored 62 points -- 12 more than Curry himself.

In what was his 10th game this season scoring at least 30 points, third of 40 or more and first 50-point performance, Curry made 17 of his 28 shot attempts, was 7-for-11 on 3-pointers and drained all nine of his free throws. For good measure, he led the Warriors with nine rebounds and added six assists.

His teammates, however, went 24-for-63 (38.1 percent) overall and 10-for-30 (33.3 percent) from long distance.

Meanwhile, the Warriors' defense continued to be atrocious. The Suns, without Chris Paul, Cam Johnson and Landry Shamet, shot 52.4 percent from the field and made 20 3-pointers while making 52.6 percent of their 38 attempts. To Steve Kerr, though, the Warriors' issues go far beyond the box score.

"It obviously starts with me, I'm the coach of the team," Kerr said after the loss that dropped the Warriors to 6-9 on the season. "I have to figure out a way to get that production, that sort of commitment to the team and to each other and to winning that it's going to require."

What does that look like? A handful of areas on the court, and perhaps off, that need vast improvements.

"Share the ball," Kerr said. "If somebody's open, throw it to them. If somebody helps on a rotation, crack back and help on the big guy. If things aren't going well, somebody call the group into the foul line, get everybody together and motivate the group.

"All that stuff is missing right now. I saw a lot of hanging heads tonight. I think we're feeling sorry for ourselves. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. Everyone can't wait to play us and kick our ass. We've had a lot of success and a lot of fun, a lot of joy beating people over the years and teams don't forget that. So they're having their fun now, as they should.

"I've always felt the game rewards you if you commit to the game. If you really compete together, shots go in, calls go your way, breaks fall your way. We're not earning any of that stuff. That's why we're winless on the road. It's a pickup game."

Led by Curry's otherworldly combination of generational powers on the court and a sense of fun with each second that ticks off the scoreboard, there never has been an experience like the Warriors have given us for so long now. It's a feeling. It's passion. It's unity. It radiates from your toes to the hairs on your head.

And it isn't there right now. Even the wins feel different.

Maybe it's exhaustion. Maybe it's offseason drama rolling into the regular season. Maybe all the talk of the dynasty dying down is catching up to them.

None of it is an excuse to Kerr. He didn't hold back, making sure to call out the Warriors' lack of grit and saying the product they're putting on the court essentially is a Drew League game. There also are internal, complex problems that Kerr is keeping behind closed doors.

The man he's going to turn to is the same who turned the Warriors into winners and a global brand, all with a killer smile on his face. With the flick of his right wrist, Curry makes magic into reality. The Warriors are searching for a spark that is worth more than 50, 75 or 100 points and only one man can get it done.

"That's what he does every day," Kerr said when asked about leaning on Curry's character right now. "Steph is the anchor of our team and the anchor of our culture, and that won't change. We will work together. Steph is not only one of the greatest players of all time, but is one of the finest human beings I've ever met in my life.

"I have no doubt that he's going to do everything in that locker room, along with Draymond [Green] and Andre [Iguodala] and [Kevon Looney] and the veteran guys, and we'll do everything we can as a staff."

There's a connection as a team that the defending champions are looking for right now. Everything starts individually first. Veterans, new players and the young guys all need a bit of a self-assessment at this early stage in the season to figure out how they can contribute to winning. Stats will follow.

Winning cures all. Begging for joy when you're three games below .500 isn't exactly an easy switch to flip. Starting with the right mindset sure can help.

Whether it's a star like Klay Thompson or Jordan Poole, a new guy to the group like JaMychal Green or one of the Warriors' many youngsters trying to prove themselves, all involved have to be able to ride the wave. Right now, it's crashing on top of them. Once the roller coaster speeds straight down, there isn't enough juice to get back up.

"I think just put the focus on the team, whatever that really means for everybody," Curry said. "We're all built differently, we all see the game differently, but if your energy can be focused on the team and having each other's back -- whether it's vocally, the energy, your body language, whatever the sacrifice might look like out on the court when you're out there in your minutes, that usually creates good vibes and you can usually feed off that to get yourself out of a hole.

"You can't obsess about the stat sheet and what it looks like, because that's not how the game is played."

Two nights after beating the San Antonio Spurs by 37 points, Kerr after the Warriors' loss Wednesday night used a lesson taught to him by the man he recently beat. Kerr played for Gregg Popovich's Spurs for three seasons and two different stints.

Those two stops and three seasons and also brought Kerr two more championship rings. Along the way, Pop's wisdom stuck with Kerr and it isn't going anywhere.

"I think we can get there," Kerr said of his team. "I think we can find our way back. But there's a very delicate balance to all of this. Pop used to tell us in San Antonio when things weren't going well and the other team was beating us, he'd say, 'Those guys make millions of dollars a year to play basketball, too.' And it's true.

"Every team in the league is loaded with talent. The NBA is loaded with guys who can play. If you're not right emotionally, spiritually, you will get exposed every single night. That's where we are right now."

With each loss that piles up on the Warriors' record, the positive continues to be how early it still is in the season. The standings so far nearly are the opposite as everybody predicted.

The Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz each have 10 wins. Nobody saw that coming. The Los Angeles Clippers were the darlings of the offseason. They're 8-7, far from dominant.

What can snowball out of control is the manner in which people, or a team, handles itself. So no, Steph isn't looking past these losses and thanking the basketball gods that there still are many months to go.

"Losing becomes habit if you don't fix it," Curry said. "We've avoided that for a very long time, because of that creeping into the locker room and losing mentality. I think we're very aware of who we are and what our potential is, the fact that we can't stay in this vibe and mode for too long and not really prove that we can be that type of team.

"We're not panicking in terms of 6-9 or whatever we are, or the amount of games that we have left that we can't figure it out. But yeah, the losing does get really old, really quick."

RELATED: Alarming stat highlights how bad Warriors' defense has been

What should have been a celebration became a reflection. More of that has to be in store in the future, and could be what the Warriors need if they want to start creeping back towards their expectations.

There's a long way to go, in more ways than one.

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