We tend to think of Stephen Curry as a saintly figure, a family man who does good deeds for the public as routinely as he does for the Warriors, all while in the cozy cradle of inner tranquility.
It’s never easy, though, and it’s becoming apparent that the cruelest twist of this maddening season – the wild fluctuation between the team’s performance at home and on the road – is inflaming his gut.
Curry will never lose his confidence; he has done too much, won too often. But his 50 points Wednesday night couldn’t prevent a 134-126 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers that left the Warriors with a hideous 7-27 road record.
With 70 games down and only 12 remaining, Curry’s faith may be slightly shaken, but his swagger is taking a beating from reality.
Asked by reporters at Crypto.com Arena what can be done for the defending champs to match their dismal play on the road with their stellar work at Chase Center, where they are 29-7, Curry paused for a moment.
“It’s like the ultimate tease,” he said. “We’re good enough to beat whoever at home. And we’ve had some self-inflicted wounds on the road, but we’ve also played well enough . . .”
The Warriors played well at times Wednesday night, posting superior shooting efficiency and staying close mostly because Curry was so electrifying. They were undone by four other areas. LA had a 32-15 advantage in free throws, a 20-11 edge in points off turnovers, a 27-11 edge in second-chance points and a 14-6 rout on the glass in the fourth quarter.
All of which put the Warriors back into the dungeon from which they can’t seem to escape. Where are the solutions?
“Tough question, just because you’re trying,” Curry said. “We’re doing everything we can to (fix it). We’re mindful of it. Give effort. Focus. Just if you don’t do it, you lose.
“Until we run out of games to solve it, we have to keep trying. It’s the nature of the game, the ebbs and flows of year after year, figuring out what it takes to win at the highest level. We’ve identified those things. We just haven’t been able to do it.”
This was Curry’s second 50-point game this season, and the Warriors have lost both. His performance in the third quarter, 12 scintillating minutes during which he scored 21 points – including 12 in a row in less than two minutes – left his teammates feeling, well, relatively inadequate.
“It sucks,” Draymond Green said of Curry’s performance wasted in defeat. “You just sit and think about what more could I have done to help him? When you get a guy going off like that, you need to find a way to capitalize on it. We didn't do that.”
Curry isn’t one to point fingers at individuals. He isn’t one to question the coach. After not shooting a free throw until 7:22 remained, Steph wouldn’t even deliver a G-rated version of Fred VanVleet’s expletive-laced rant about poor officiating.
Doesn’t mean he wasn’t feeling the same exasperation his teammates felt.
“We got a little frustrated; nobody likes to lose,” Kevon Looney said. “We feel like we competed good enough to win, but you know . . . details. We still got a lot of work to do.”
That has been the story of this season, which turns five months old on Saturday. Until this season, 55.7-percent shooting in a game usually meant success. On this night, it was a footnote in an eight-point loss to a team that entered the game tied with the Warriors in the Western Conference standings.
Until this season, a 50-point game from Curry generally meant victory. The Warriors were 8-2 in such games. This season? Try 0-2.
“It’s nice to play well, shoot well,” Curry said. “It’s what I expect to do every night, no matter what the stat sheet looks like. It’s frustrating when we can’t get over the hump and figure out a way to get a win, especially with where we’ve been all season on the road.
“Our job is to just keep playing and keep competing at a high level and just try to figure it out. Whatever I’ve got to do in the process individually, just going to keep doing that.”
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That’s Steph, keeping his eye on the same goal every season. Keep playing. Keep getting buckets and dropping sweat, even if the results mock everything you work for and represent.
It may seem the factor that keeps Curry grounded, impeccable overall perspective, is potent enough to somehow shield him from the frailties afflicting the rest of us. Not true. He feels the weight of failure, just like we do. As much as it annoys him, leaving a few scars and trying to steal his joy, there is no sign of emotional surrender.
This season is buckling the Warriors and might break them. It’s buckling Steph, for sure, but there is no chance it will break him.