Steph Curry

Curry-led Warriors face biggest challenge since 2009 as losses pile up

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO – After losing their sixth consecutive game and fifth in a row on their home court, the Warriors backed themselves into a place only Stephen Curry knows well.

Only he among the Warriors has experienced a skid that stretched long enough to threaten faith. That was 14 years ago, when he was a rookie on squad that finished 26-56.

Curry has no desire to relive that season, and doesn’t believe he will.

But after a soul-sapping 130-123 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday at Chase Center, he is acutely aware that the Warriors are approaching a tipping point.

“With a losing streak like this, there’s an urgency for sure,” Curry said. “Anytime you lose that many in a row, it’s a problem that you’ve got to fix. You don’t want to develop a losing mentality at all. At any stretch of the season. That’s a stink in the locker room you don’t really want to have.”

That stink, back in 2009-10, came from a roster that never won three consecutive games and endured three losing streaks of at least six games, including one that lasted nine. The only positive about that season was that coach Don Nelson supplanted Lenny Wilkens is winningest coach in NBA history.

The Warriors have come so far since then. New ownership arrived in the autumn of 2010. The following year brought Bob Myers as assistant general manager, Jerry West as executive board member and advisor, Mark Jackson as head coach and Klay Thompson as a first-round draft pick. A year later came Draymond Green, followed two years later by Steve Kerr replacing Jackson as head coach.

The last nine seasons have altered the perception of the Warriors, and only Curry among those in uniform has witnessed the climb from subterranean to stratospheric.

And here Curry is now, all these achievements later, in a sunken place he could not have imagined.

“It’s just a mentality that you’re supposed to win, that you know how to compete,” Curry said. “The confidence that we’ve built over the course of this run, it’s still in there. We have that competitive spirit. That will help a lot to not let that losing mentality sink in. That doesn’t mean that the Xs and Os of execution of the game plan are going to follow, but it sets you up for an ability to be in games and get the momentum back on your side.

“You’ve got to have an ego about who we are as a team and dig deep into that.”

Team-wide ego in the NBA often begins with owning your home court, as the Warriors routinely did during their platinum years, between 2014 and 2019, when they made five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Golden State during those five seasons was 173-32 at Oracle Arena.

Going 64-18 the last two seasons at Chase Center suggested the Warriors were creating a new homecourt advantage.

A second straight loss to the Thunder left them 1-6 at home this season.

“You hate losing games, no matter where it is, but especially at home,” Curry said. “This is where you set a standard of protecting your home court.”

Curry, clear-eyed about this team’s strengths and weaknesses, then went to the heart of the issue facing the Warriors.

“There are different challenges for us this year that we’re going to have to overcome if we’re going to be competitive in the standings late in the season,” Curry said. “You hate seeing 1-6 or 1-5, whatever it is. You hate seeing that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t turn it around.”

The challenges are making an early appearance. The Warriors are smaller than most teams, slower than most teams and are older than all but one team. They overcame a size disadvantage to win a championship in 2022, but they are realizing the league has changed just that quickly.

Opponents home and away are coming after them harder than ever and, lately, taking them down. They’re 0-2 against Minnesota, 0-2 against Cleveland and now 1-2 against OKC.

“We’ve been experimenting with rotations and lineups that can find some chemistry and develop an identity of how we’re going to win games,” Curry said. “We’ve shown some bright spots early, but I think through this losing streak we’ve gotten a little rattled a little bit. So, we’ve got to figure that piece out. Missing Draymond is tough, I was out for two games, seems like a perfect storm of everything.

“So, we have to, again, maintain confidence in ourselves and our ability to figure it out but it’s going to take everybody.”

Curry has been too far to go back to the despair of his rookie season. He learned during the first two weeks that he along, no matter how fantastic, cannot drag the Warriors to a desired top-four seed in the Western Conference.

So, yes, they’re going to need “everybody,” from coaching staff to the last player on the bench. And even then, they’ll have to be at their best to break the lock that has had them dwelling in the cellar over the past eight days.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are simply fighting to avoid that stink in the locker room.

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