For every step forward the Warriors have taken this season, they've also taken (at least) one step back.
Golden State moved to a season-high four games over .500 on Feb. 26, but the Warriors are back at .500 -- and 10th place in the Western Conference standings -- after four straight losses in the last 13 days, including a 130-104 shellacking at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday at Staples Center.
The Warriors dealt with plenty of lows in the injury-affected, pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, after a half-decade high in the preceding five seasons, each of which ended with a trip to the NBA Finals. Golden State has packed the highs and lows into the 2020-21 season, and Steph Curry admitted riding out so many waves has presented a new challenge.
"It's different, it's tough and nobody likes the feeling of getting smacked in a game like tonight," Curry said Thursday. "We've had some really good moments as well. I feel like the vibe of tonight, and some of those big wins, every game feels like two. It's like an emotional rollercoaster that you really have to be focused on staying even-keeled. That competitive fire obviously remains."
Curry's dud Thursday -- 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers -- was a rarity in an otherwise stellar season, and the two-time NBA MVP never really got going. Still, the Warriors were only down two points after the first quarter, before digging a deep hole during a disastrous second quarter.
Coach Steve Kerr introduced an all-new second unit that quite simply didn't click. With rookie center James Wiseman benched after missing two mandatory COVID-19 tests during the All-Star break, Kerr turned to rookie Nico Mannion, Jordan Poole, Kelly Oubre Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Eric Paschall to give Golden State a second-quarter spark.
Instead, the Clippers outscored the Warriors 20-9 in a little over seven minutes, and the game only slipped further out of the Dubs' reach when Curry returned to the floor. Curry, normally one to lead by example, was noticeably vocal imploring his teammates to raise their games in the second half.
Things don't get any easier for the Warriors over the next two games, with a home back-to-back against the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers beginning Sunday. Golden State's current losing streak is its longest of the season, and the Warriors are at risk of dropping to below .500 for the first time since New Year's Day.
If the Warriors are going to discover the one thing that has eluded them all season, it might have to start this weekend at Chase Center.
"We've done a pretty good job of adjusting, we just haven't found any consistency, and that is a frustrating thing for sure," Curry continued. "We're gonna have to find that if we want to be a threat in the playoffs, and that's on us to figure out."