OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Chants of “M-V-P” reverberated off the upper reaches of Oracle Arena Wednesday night. On the court, Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry stood bent over, hands on his knees.
For six years, such a chant has been reserved by the Warriors faithful for just Curry. But not Tuesday night. The accolade was saluting Golden State star Kevin Durant as he stood on the free-throw line in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
Durant scored a playoff career-high 45 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Los Angeles Clippers won for the second time in the series on Golden State’s home court to stay alive for battle for another day.
Curry scored 24 points on just 7-of-15 shooting and had only 3 rebounds. He also had a key turnover in the final minute to help seal the Warriors’ fate. He is 13-of-40 from the field over the last three playoff games.
The 129-121 loss was stunning, maybe not as mind-numbing as the team’s NBA Finals collapse against Cleveland three years ago, but still a renewed source of concern for head coach Steve Kerr.
“It’s been a year when things have not gone actually smoothly at times,” Kerr told reporters. “I’m not surprised by anything, but I expected to come out and play better and to win the game. But it’s the NBA playoffs. It’s a seven-game series and you got to play. You got to defend with some urgency and we gave up 129 points on our home floor and they shot 54 percent. We weren’t right from the very beginning….We seemed to take it for granted we were going to be okay.”
It was Clippers guard Patrick Beverley — who is known as a top defender but not generally a factor on the offensive end — who set the tone of the game. Not Curry.
“I thought Patrick Beverley came in and just kicked our butts right away,” Kerr said. “He got like three offensive rebounds and he came out with more energy than we had and that set a tone.”
Beverley ended the night with 17 points and hit five three pointers.
When it came to Curry’s overall play, Kerr said he was “a little off tonight.”
“He shot the ball well, but he had that early foul on (Landry) Shamet which was kind of a strange play — a shot clock violation or very close to it — and I didn’t feel he was locked in,” Kerr said. “He got off to a slow start and could never really got himself going and I give them credit. They did a really good job defensively on him too. We got to do a better job of finding ways to free him.”
Curry was also befuddled by his team’s lack of intensity.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked of the Warriors effort. “We understand it was a close-out game and they are always difficult no matter who you are playing. They threw the first punch in the first quarter. Everybody (on the Clippers) seemed like they had nothing to lose and were just firing it up from all over the place. We had breakdowns in transition. Didn’t block out well so they had plenty of extra possessions. That gives anyone confidence when you see the ball going in.”
Curry has been the team’s leader through all its playoff runs. He has been the one to set the tone — particularly on the offensive end.
“You take the good with the bad,” he said. “When we are playing well and winning, the light shines bright. Same thing on the opposite end. You take it on the chin, you keep on moving. I know we had high hopes to end the series tonight and turn the page to the next one. But this journey’s going to be a bit different.
We got to understand — individually all throughout the roster — when you step foot on the floor, lay it all out there. It’s a very difficult thing to win a playoff game. It takes 48 minutes of intense focus for sure.”