There was no reason for Steve Kerr to introduce Stephen Curry in the fourth quarter Friday against the Bucks.
Not long ago, such a development signified a blowout win — when the Warriors went 73-9 during the 2015-16 campaign, Curry sat out 19 fourth quarters. Nowadays, it means another demoralizing defeat.
Curry watched from the bench as Milwaukee finalized a 138-99 Christmas Day thumping two days after he saw the end of a 125-99 loss to the Nets from the sideline. While he’s returned from a hand injury looking energized, his teammates have mostly flopped. A Golden State group that had convinced itself a high playoff seed in the Western Conference playoffs was attainable is now facing the brutal reality it might not be that good.
Steph Curry: “We played two teams with championship aspirations. We understand that’s the level we have to get to, but we’re just not anywhere close to that.”
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) December 25, 2020
MORE: Curry’s strange Christmas Day streak continues
There are several facts worth mentioning before grilling the Warriors, of course. They lost Klay Thompson for the season and are without injured defensive stalwart Draymond Green. Their first two games have come against perhaps the best rosters in the Eastern Conference. But there’s no guarantee Green can stay healthy for the remainder of the campaign, and the schedule will never completely ease up in a tough division.
Against the Nets and Bucks, the performances of forwards Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. were particularly underwhelming. These are players the team needs to excel without Thompson. Instead, they have been negatives.
Wiggins has looked lifeless on both ends, not providing the scoring punch or high-level, versatile defense required of a $29.5 million contract. Oubre has shot 4 of 24 from the floor (16.6 percent) and 0 of 11 from deep. His iso dribbles into jumpers aren’t working right now.
Oubre will likely bounce back, albeit not to a star level, given his sustained strong output in Phoenix last season. But inconsistency from Wiggins was long an issue in Minnesota, and his expectations are far greater than those of Oubre.
No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, a mobile big, has been a bright spot, but given the poor play of Wiggins, it’s easy to wonder whether his long-term future would have been even brighter alongside D’Angelo Russell, the pick-and-roll maestro dealt at the 2020 deadline to acquire Wiggins.
Up next for the Warriors is a trip to Chicago, where similarly putrid basketball is being played by the Bulls. With hopes suddenly tempered for the 2020-21 season, perhaps Curry can head to the bench early in the fourth quarter, this time with a huge lead, to provide a much-needed boost.
At this point, though, the Warriors would settle for almost anything better than the results against the Nets and Bucks.