The Warriors Just Can’t Get Right On The Road
3:08 PM EDT on March 19, 2023
Assuming it is possible to feel bad for a guy who is the greatest shooter in NBA history and the owner of four NBA titles, Steph Curry was due some sympathy heading into the weekend. The 34-year-old is having one of the best seasons of his already sparkling career on a 36-36 Warriors team that currently sits seventh in the West and is 7-29 in road games. You'd think it would be impossible for the defending NBA champions, being led by a star who is scoring 29 points per game while shooting 49 percent from the field, to be struggling to stay above .500 this late in the season, but such is life for Curry and the Warriors. Whatever curse is afflicting this team away from home shows no signs of being broken.
Case in point: the Warriors' last three games, all road losses. On Wednesday night, they followed up two impressive home wins against the Suns and the Bucks with a 134-126 loss to the Clippers. Curry scored 50 in that game, hitting 20 of his 28 shots, and by the end of the proceedings he looked like the loneliest guy in the world. Friday night brought an eight-point loss to the Hawks; Curry scored 31 in that game and once again seemed like the only guy on the roster capable of playing winning basketball on the road.
Coming off the back of those 81 wasted points, Curry ran into some trouble against the Grizzlies on Saturday night. Memphis held him to just eight first-half points, and went into halftime with a 12-point lead. But then, in the third quarter, while Curry continued to struggle, it looked like his teammates might for once—just one goddamn time this season—bail him out. Golden State outscored the Grizzlies 41-33 in the third quarter, led by 17 points from Jordan Poole and nine points from Jonathan Kuminga. Here at last were two of the Warriors' young roleplayers, the guys who at the beginning of the season were expected to keep the defending champs sharp and competitive, finally coming through when needed. Unfortunately, their dependability didn't last into the fourth quarter: the Grizzlies won that frame 29-19, Curry finished with a measly 16 points, and all Klay Thompson could do at the end of the blowout was dorkily brag about how many rings he has:
This has been a common refrain from certain members of the Warriors, especially in regards to their budding rivalry with the Grizzlies. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson don't seem to want to even consider it a rivalry, their reasoning being that a team with zero rings has no right to consider itself on the same level as a team that has four. That's fair enough, but the thing about constantly reminding everyone of past success—even extremely recent past success—is that at a certain point it just serves to highlight current failures.
It's fitting that the camera pans away from Thompson and onto Curry in the clip above. While Thompson was busy trying and mostly failing to stick it to Dillon Brooks, Curry looked dejected and lost in thought. If I had to guess what he was thinking about, it probably wasn't the fact that he has four rings. More likely he was trying to understand how his season has gone this way—how, ever since winning the title, the Warriors have done nothing but cause a preseason punching scandal, play like the worst team in the league every time they go on the road, and waste some of the best basketball Curry has ever played. There are basketball-related explanations for some of this—Green and Thompson are getting creaky, the young guys haven't developed as expected, Andrew Wiggins's long and unexplained absence has sucked a lot of juice out of the lineup—but there is also a real stink hovering around this team. It's just not possible for a defending champion to be 29-7 at home and 7-29 on the road without being plagued by more elemental problems.
The Warriors play the 18-52 Rockets tomorrow, on the road. If they lose that one, there won't be any good way to explain it on basketball terms.