There has always been some craziness baked into the Stephen Curry experience. The Golden State Warriors superstar is a race car balancing the line between fast and loose, and when he gets too loose, as with everything else he does, the team tends to follow.
The Warriors are no longer undefeated. They lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 in overtime Thursday night, thanks in large part to their 23 turnovers, which led to 23 Memphis points. Cut even a few of those off, and this game likely doesn't even reach overtime.
But this is the way of the Warriors. The hand that feeds them is also the one that bites them. They are who they are because they force the issue, thread backdoor passes, push the pace, all of which empowers everyone on the court to play confidently and with the freedom that comes with knowing you're not going to get yanked for a mistake.
But again, when that goes too far and the mistakes start piling up, as they have through the first five games with 83 total turnovers for the Warriors, who draws the line? With the Warriors, there is no such thing as the point guard being the level head of the group who settles everyone else down. Curry is the one starting most of the fires, the guy whose mom has been known to charge him a hundred bucks for every turnover. If that deal is still in place, Steph owes Sonja $500 after Thursday night. Through five games, he owes her $2,200.
The thing is, Curry is great enough to overcome his own harebrained play. Despite his aforementioned five giveaways and a 7-for-20 shooting night from 3, the Warriors still won the 41 minutes he was on the court by 12 points. He finished with 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Even when he's shooting poorly (by his standards) and turning the ball over willy nilly, his gravity alone makes the Warriors a nightmare to defend.
Nobody else has that kind of leeway. And so the next thing you know, Jordan Poole is playing like he's Curry, only he's not, and six turnovers and a few 30-foot bricks later you wonder if he might need to check himself just a little bit. Draymond Green is tasked with anticipating all the Warriors movement as the half-court trigger man, and his willingness to pull that trigger without a moment's hesitation is crucial to Curry getting open looks while the entire defense is tracking and chasing him like a pack of wolves.
Surely some turnovers are factored into that job description. But not this many, and certainly not of this largely lazy variety. Against the Grizzlies, Green got an eight-second count for walking the ball up the court with nary a care in the world. You can accept turnovers of aggression, I suppose, but the Warriors go beyond that. When they get sloppy, they turn into a basketball circus.
One one hand, this might sound like nitpicking for a team that has started the season 4-1 without Klay Thompson. I don't totally disagree. The fact that Curry is shooting well below his averages makes it even more impressive they've gotten out to this start despite these turnover issues. Those 83 turnovers the Warriors have committed are the fifth most in the league, but it's worth noting that the four teams who've committed more are a combined 4-16. The Warriors are still finding ways to win.
That said, let's really examine these victories. After beating the Lakers (who have looked terrible to start the season) on opening night, the Warriors have beaten the Clippers (minus Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka), Kings and Thunder, and the truth is, they easily could have lost all three of those games.
This is not a team with a big margin for collective error. The old Warriors would erase big deficits in one nuclear five-minute stretch, but this team has now been on the other end, blowing 19-point leads to both the Clippers and Grizzlies. They have more shooting and depth than last season, and Green is playing with the two-way fire of his prime. But at the end of the day, the Warriors, on most nights, are still going to need Curry to go bonkers to beat good teams, at least until Thompson gets back.
That's how they beat the Clippers. Curry went for 45 on 8 of 13 from 3. He hasn't shot well in the other wins, but again, how much stock are you going to put in beating the Kings (which required their one responsible game of the season with just seven turnovers) and Thunder?
Believe it or not, Curry has now failed to score a single point in his past three fourth quarters. He is 0 for 11 from the field over that span. That is just too much to overcome against even halfway decent teams, which the Grizzlies qualify as, when you're losing so many possessions to flat-out carelessness throughout the other three quarters. Again, turnovers are part of the Curry deal, and the overall Warriors equation, but there has to be a line. And right now, the Warriors are blowing past it.