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Steph opts to relive six minutes of torture after collapse vs. Nuggets

Steph opts to relive six minutes of torture after collapse vs. Nuggets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Stephen Curry couldn’t wait for Friday morning. His blood was on the floor, along with that of the rest of the Warriors, and he wanted to understand how it got there.

There was plenty, too, because the Warriors on Thursday night produced perhaps the most sickening scene of the season during which they’ve recklessly invited too many collisions with their own aspirations.

A midrange jump shot by Andrew Wiggins gave them an 18-point lead, 123-105, over the Denver Nuggets with 6:51 remaining. The Warriors were defending their homecourt with passion and purpose. They had the defending champs reeling. This was a chance for Golden State to stop its three-game losing streak and post its second signature win in 17 days.

The Warriors scored only four more points. The Nuggets scored 25.

And there it was, another game given away, another crash landing for a fan base sensing a victory that suddenly was a mirage. A 130-127 loss that the Warriors can’t rationalize but have no choice but to accept.

“We probably just got too cool out there,” Klay Thompson said, “instead of playing with that same grit that had us up double digits.”

Curry’s response to the game-winning shot by Nikola Jokić, a 39-foot heave that improbably banked in, was like that of most everyone inside sold-out Chase Center. Stunned silence, accompanied by a prolonged vacant stare.

What separated Curry from the crowd was the mouthpiece between his teeth, dangling from his lips – and the impulse to see how such a fantastic victory ended up shattered into little pieces of defeat.

“We were up 16, six minutes left,” Curry said. “(Aaron) Gordon and (Peyton) Watson hit some big shots. We got a little stagnant on offense. It’s weird, I actually just watched the last six minutes. We were trying to melt the clock certain possessions and started to play a lot slower than we had the whole game. Then you’re subject to make some misses with their defense set. Then on the other end they just made play, after play, after play, and we just couldn’t get enough stops, had too many fouls, got them to the free throw line and they made them.

“Then it comes down to a bad possession by me obviously throwing that pass.”

With the game tied 127-127, five seconds remaining, and the shot clock approaching zeroes, Curry stopped at the 3-point break on the left side and tried to fling a 40-foot crosscourt pass toward Andrew Wiggins, in the right corner. Inexcusable decision. The ball went about 30 feet before being intercepted by Denver star Jamal Murray.

With the Nuggets gaining possession with 3.6 seconds remaining, Jokić came out of a Nuggets timeout and sent the Warriors to their fourth loss in a game they led by more than 17 points.

“I feel for our guys,” coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s a really tough one. Our guys played great: 35 assists, 10 turnovers. We executed most of the game but couldn’t score and couldn’t get stops in that last five, six minutes.”

Kerr made several puzzling decisions in that fatal fourth. He opted to close with Dario Sarić, a fine offensive player but the most defensively vulnerable of the team’s big men. Kerr also kept Jonathan Kuminga – who scored 16 points in 19 minutes and whose 3-point play in the third quarter ignited a 28-10 run – on the bench for the final 18 minutes.

The fourth quarter was maddening enough that Curry deviated from his usual postgame routine. He asked the team’s video crew to clip the last six minutes of the game so he could relive the catastrophic finish.

“That last possession, obviously that turnover I want back,” Curry said. But for the most part, it didn’t feel like we were not executing the way we wanted to. It’s just that they had their pet plays and knew what they wanted to get to, and guys made shots. And then it starts to feel like, ‘Oh, the tide is turning’ and you have to do something about it.”

While the Nuggets made nine of their last 13 shots, including four in a row inside the final two minutes, the Warriors missed 11 of their last 12. While Golden State committed three turnovers during the final six minutes, Denver committed none.

This was a late-game collapse of epic proportion and Curry, in an act of masochism, watched it in all its gore.

“It was fresh in my mind,” Curry said. “Just to understand what I felt on the court, what I saw and what it looked like.”
Curry said he wanted to feel the despair immediately in hopes of turning his focus toward the game against the profoundly inept Detroit Pistons on Friday night at Chase. No next-day video.

What did Steph see? Another gag job by the Warriors, who have gone from expecting to win to believing they’d win to plummeting into the vortex inhabited by teams no better than mediocre.

How did it look? Agonizing, like so many performances by rebuilding teams unfamiliar with the delicate art of finishing.

The Warriors trying to learn how to win. And most of the time, they are failing.

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