SAN FRANCISCO -- The most surprising development of these NBA playoffs is not the Brooklyn Nets being swept by the Boston Celtics, or the New Orleans Pelicans pushing the Phoenix Suns, or the star turn of Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson. All surprises, raising eyebrows around the league.
But none drops as many jaws as the sight of Stephen Curry missing four free throws in one game.
Curry was 10-of-14 from the line Sunday as the Warriors took a 126-121 loss to the Nuggets in Game 4 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series.
“I kind of laughed it off,” Curry said Tuesday after practice at Chase Center. “I was pointing at Denver’s bench, and they were counting how many misses I had because it was so...it was like an out-of-body experience.”
It was, for teammates and opponents, a did-that-really happen experience. The last time Steph missed four free throws in a game was Dec. 13, 2008, when he was a junior with the Davidson College Wildcats.
Curry’s 71.4 shooting percentage on Sunday is slightly below the NBA average -- but nowhere near his 90.8 career percentage.
“I missed free throws, and I hate it,” he said after the game. “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”
That’s a hyperbolic statement, but not as much as one would think.
Curry misses more layups than free throws. So finely tuned is his shooting that when he steps to the line, the point is not the goal. His objective is to see the ball touch nothing until dropping through the net. No rim along the way in, and certainly no backboard.
And there it was, on Sunday, four of Curry’s free throws rattling around the rim and coming out. As if that weren’t astounding enough, on one trip to the line late in the first half, he missed both shots.
Curry shot free throws after practice on Tuesday because he always does. Because it’s a ritual, not because he missed four in a game for the first time in his 13-year NBA career.
“You leave it in the locker room, come in get some reps,” he said Tuesday. “In my head, I’m still shooting 100 percent. And going to approach tomorrow the same way. It never lingers too much.”
RELATED: Steph gets minutes restriction lifted at the perfect time
There is no chance the misses will creep into Curry’s head. He is 15 years beyond mastering the art of moving on from mistakes or momentary dips below his standard.
For more than a decade, a Curry free throw has been the easiest money the Warriors can snag. Don’t expect that to change.