CHARLOTTE — For once, Stephen Curry couldn’t hit the big shot.
So happens, it came in front of his friends and family in his first game back in his hometown in two years. He wowed the home crowd with a no-look, half-court, over-the-head assist and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but neither highlight came when the Warriors needed it most in the fourth quarter.
The Charlotte Hornets hung on to deal the Warriors their first loss in eight games, 106-102.
“We just never gained any traction, never made a stand defensively and never got into a rhythm offensively,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “They just outplayed us. … We were not on top of our game.”
The Warriors managed only 14 points in the fourth quarter. Curry had the ball in his hands throughout the final period but could only connect on one of his eight attempts from the field. He finished with 24 points on 7-of-22 shooting, while Andrew Wiggins paced the Warriors with 28 points on 19 shots.
Miles Bridges sank a hook to make it , and Terry Rozier nailed a pair of free throws to seal the game in the final minute.
LaMelo Ball landed on Curry’s leg on a rebound attempt late in the fourth quarter. While Curry stayed in the game, he didn’t hit another shot.
Kerr blamed the Warriors’ shot selection for their trouble scoring in the final quarter.
“I thought we got really rushed,” Kerr said. “I didn’t feel like we had the same spacing and trust in terms of moving the ball. … We never really did get much of an offensive rhythm all game, but especially there in the fourth quarter.”
Golden State entered the fourth quarter with an 88-87 advantage after Curry drew some of the loudest cheers of the night. He banked in a buzzer beater from 36 feet — an immediate answer to Kelly Oubre’s go-ahead 3-pointer on the previous possession. Curry’s shot garnered louder cheers but it couldn’t spark the separation the Warriors have been able to get in the second half during their seven-game winning streak, which came to an end Sunday.
Curry hadn’t lost in his hometown since 2013 and was averaging 28.6 points in eight previous games inside this arena. However, he hasn’t turned in a signature performance here in almost four years. He missed last season’s game after falling ill and was limited to 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting in 2019.
Curry’s father, Dell, and other family members were on hand. He made sure to greet select fans in courtside seats, including rapper J Cole.
Autograph seekers lined up two or three deep above the Warriors’ tunnel, and Curry satisfied them with dozens of signatures after giving onlookers the usual spectacle in his warm-up routine.
Curry joked a pregame meal of Bojangles would lead to a “serious itis situation” and guarantee a Charlotte win. And at times, the Warriors looked a little lethargic.
Golden State struggled to pull away as it has been able to during its seven-game stretch of double-digit wins. After Mason Plumlee snuck behind the defense for an uncontested dunk that tied the game at 70, Golden State called timeout, and an animated Mike Brown tore into players coming off the floor.
It wasn’t a lack of effort, according to Kerr, but rather a lack of competitiveness. He said there’s a difference.
“We were doing everything we could to get the guys going and find that traction. We just never could find it,” Kerr said. “Mike was doing his best, I was doing my best. Some nights, it’s just not going to happen. … I thought we played hard, but I didn’t think we competed.”
Little could be done to stop Charlotte or heat up the Warriors’ shooting.
“We were the number one defense in the league, but it didn’t look like it tonight,” Kerr said, noting Charlotte’s 48% success rate from the field. “We weren’t connected. We didn’t string together stops.”
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga gave the Warriors a spark at the start of the second quarter. He scored Golden State’s first eight points of the period and acted as the focal point of the offense. After Kuminga’s fourth straight bucket, the Warriors tried to force him the ball but turned it over on consecutive possessions.
Early turnovers plagued the fast-paced, free-flowing Warriors.
They racked up seven in the first quarter for the second straight game while falling into a seven-point hole and finished the game with 15.
Getting back on the road after two straight weeks at home was supposed to provide some more good vibes for a Golden State squad that just reeled off seven straight home wins. Instead, the Warriors were handed their second loss in 12 games this season.
“You go out on the road for the first time, maybe you have a little false sense of security after seven straight home wins,” Kerr said. “It felt like a team that hadn’t been on the road in a couple weeks and forgot how connected you have to be (and) how hard you have to compete.”
The Warriors practiced Saturday evening after landing in Charlotte, then went out for a team dinner, relishing the team-bonding activities newly available to them after two years defined by COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s great for us to have team meals again,” Kerr said Saturday after practice. “The last couple years have been really tough. This just feels — and I know COVID’s not gone — but it just feels like a normal season. And normal is wonderful. We get to be together and travel and have a lot of fun, see family, see friends, so it’s all good stuff.”
The meal that was on Curry’s mind, though, was the iconic fast-food chain that shares the same birthplace as the Warriors star.
“I gotta stop at Bojangles,” Curry said. “I won’t tell our trainers and sports performance team about that detour, but that’s definitely got to be on the itinerary. … After the game, it’s a good celebratory situation for sure.”
Unfortunately, there was nothing to celebrate Sunday night.
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Author: Evan Webeck