Stephen Curry has lost 50-point games before. His first 50-point outing came at Madison Square Garden in 2013. His 54 points kept it close, but 35 from Carmelo Anthony gave the Knicks a four-point victory. The Warriors again lost a 2021 game in which Curry dropped 57 because Dallas was able to squeak out a two-point victory thanks to 42 points from Luka Doncic. In these instances, the Warriors were either hobbled by injuries or not quite the team they would one day become. Curry was magnificent, but another star lifted a superior overall team to a very tight victory.
Neither was the case on Wednesday. The Warriors were essentially at full strength with Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins all healthy. Their opponent, the Phoenix Suns, played without Chris Paul, Cam Johnson and Jae Crowder. Their leading scorer was Cameron Payne with 29 points. No Sun took more than 17 shots in the game. Curry made 17 shots in the game. And yet the game never felt especially close in the second half. Phoenix led by as many as 18 points and ultimately won 130-119.
"We lack collective grit," Warriors coach Steve Kerr lamented after the game. "And when you don't have grit, the game is easy for the other team." There's some truth to that statement. Gary Payton II, their defensive ace who scrapped his way up from the G-League, was a victim of the luxury tax this offseason and now plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. Otto Porter Jr. is gone as well.
But the core trio of Green, Thompson and Curry that has won four championships together is still in place. So is head coach Steve Kerr. Kevon Looney, perhaps the grittiest role player on the roster, is still here. Andre Iguodala is on the roster, though he isn't playing. If there was ever grit on this roster, it should logically be there still.
And yet, the Warriors now have the NBA's No. 27 ranked defense. They are a winless 0-8 on the road and just allowed 130 points to a Suns team missing plenty of key pieces. If the season ended today, the Warriors wouldn't even make the play-in round.
There's plenty of time to fix this. It's not even Thanksgiving, and the Warriors have won enough road playoff games not to care all that much about seeding. But a 15-game sample is significant, and for all of the criticism Golden State's younger players have received in light of this slow start, it's worth noting that James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga didn't play tonight and Moses Moody only saw the floor in the fourth quarter. Golden State's veterans were on the floor when Phoenix scored 70 first-half points. They need to be better no matter who comes off of their bench. If they aren't? They'll waste plenty more Curry masterpieces before this season is over.