SAN FRANCISCO – Good grief did the Warriors summon the worst of themselves Thursday night in a herculean effort to avoid victory.
And then, in the desperate moments, with a chance to win, they all but dropped to their knees and turned to Stephen Curry in hopes he could undo the damage.
As if he had not done enough.
He could not save them. Not this time. Curry’s 14 points in the first quarter – with his teammates as an excellent supporting case – provided the boost that allowed the Warriors to take a 17-point lead into the second frame.
But Curry’s game-high 36 points were not enough to prevent the Warriors from creating ways to keep the grateful Memphis Grizzlies in the game – and were not enough to keep the Warriors from guzzling every drop of a 104-101 overtime loss at Chase Center.
“Turnovers,” Juan Toscano-Anderson said. “We just started getting careless with the ball. I’m not sure what the sequence was to start the third (quarter), but we had hella turnovers. That was the swing for us.
“Every possession counts in this league. Leads can be gone easy, this is the NBA, the best league in the world. Guys are going to hit shots ... it’s a game of runs so you have to take care of the ball.”
No doubt whatsoever that Golden State’s 23 turnovers, giving Memphis 22 points, were the primary factor in the first loss of the season. Curbing them to a reasonable number would solve a lot of problems.
That was not to be. There were inaccurate passes, ill-conceived passes and overly ambitious passes. There was even, with the score tied and 67 seconds remaining, an eight-second backcourt violation, by none other than Draymond Green, whose hoops IQ is off the charts.
Draymond’s gaffe was somehow fitting, for once the first quarter was in the books, the Warriors turned downright messy.
“We had a great first quarter,” coach Steve Kerr said. “The ball was moving. And then we just got a little crazy out there. I give (the Grizzlies) credit. They are on a back-to-back. They came in and dug in and played defense and forced some turnovers.
“But a lot of them were unforced.”
Curry committed five turnovers, so he is not blameless. But his errors generally seem to come in pursuit of a big play, sometimes against his better judgment. The kind of play that he, as the hub of the offense, feels compelled to make.
The kind of play that, with a little more help, should not be necessary.
Green committed five turnovers, a couple were passes that didn’t squeeze through the traffic constituted by a lengthy and muscular roster. Jordan Poole, trying to meet the immense challenge of playing alongside Curry and also fill the massive void that comes with Klay Thompson’s absence, had a dreadful evening, committing six turnovers in 24 minutes.
No matter how well Curry plays, that’s a rising tide against his efforts. As he digests this, how can he not feel the urge to compensate?
“Right now, he’s working too hard for his shots,” Kerr said.
So, while some will review this game and conclude the Warriors would have been better off if Curry had re-entered the game a few minutes earlier in the fourth quarter – he was subbed in at the 4:32 mark, with the game tied 91-91 – the team’s performance in his absence is more symptom than the root cause.
“That’s not why we lost,” Curry said.
He’s 100 percent correct.
“It is one of our staples to take care of the ball,” Damion Lee said. “When you have 22 (individual) turnovers in any game, doesn’t matter if it’s professional or high school or AAU, you’re putting your back against the ropes.”
These Warriors are going to struggle without Curry, particularly through the first half of the season. New faces tend to require an adjustment period.
But there is enough talent to offer solid support. There are shooters. There is selflessness. There is hoops intellect. A lot is being asked of Poole, and sometimes it shows.
Curry is the constant. He’s not always going to give a superstar performance, but his presence creates time and space for his teammates. The Warriors will be fine once they learn how not to waste it.