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This one hurts for real

Curry says the Warriors’ Game 7 loss will stick with him ‘until we win again’

Stephen Curry’s family and friends tried their best to cheer him up at what was supposed to be an NBA championship party at his Bay Area home Sunday night. Even his precocious daughter Riley told her father that it was all right that the Golden State Warriors had fallen short.

The league’s Most Valuable Player tried to put on a happy face for his loved ones. But the Game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers stung.

“I was present in the room, but my thoughts were all at the game because it hurt for real,” Curry told The Undefeated on Monday. “It was a terrible feeling. When you lose a game, you always feel like there is going to be a next opportunity.

“But there is no next game now. It hurt a lot … It’s not fun.”

The Warriors, NBA champions in 2015, appeared John Henry strong to repeat. They had a record 73 wins during the regular season. They had taken a commanding 3-1 lead on the Cavaliers. No NBA team had ever recovered from such a deficit in the Finals. On top of that, the Warriors had lost two games in a row only once the entire season when the Oklahoma City Thunder accomplished that feat in the Western Conference Finals.

Another championship parade alongside Oakland, California’s, Lake Merritt was in the works. But it will be LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs holding a parade in Cleveland Wednesday after three straight stunning victories earned them a historic title, that city’s first major sports championship since the Browns finished atop the NFL in 1964.

“Just losing in general is a terrible feeling,” Curry said. “Watching the other team celebrate while you watch, whether you’re at home or on the road, it’s not a good feeling.”

Curry staked a claim to being perhaps the NBA’s greatest shooter ever after nailing an NBA-record 402 three-pointers this season, many of them from exceptional distances or at clutch moments. But by the time the Warriors arrived at the Finals, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder wasn’t his regular-season self. Curry was hampered by a sprained MCL, a sprained ankle and shoulder problems. He has acknowledged he needs to get stronger and the Cavs physically punished him.

Curry said no surgery is on the horizon and he didn’t use his injuries as an excuse. He struggled when the Warriors needed him the most, scoring only 17 points and missing 10 of 14 3-pointers in the decisive 93-89 loss. When Golden State desperately need a Steph Special, a heroic 3-pointer to tie late in the game, Curry was mortal and missed badly.

“I’ll take it on the chin because I know I didn’t play my best,” Curry said. “That’s something that I’ll have to deal with. That’s my own expectation and my own kind of self-assessment. I don’t need anybody else to tell me that.

“My team didn’t win. I didn’t play my best. That’s not going to be the end of the story. That’s just going to be a down chapter in the book.”

As Curry talked to the media on Monday, he was facing a mural in the Warriors practice gym showing Curry and teammate Andre Iguodala kissing the 2015 championship trophy. There are also four NBA championship banners there. Now, Golden State will likely make room for a close-but-no-cigar 2016 Western Conference title banner.

Curry is taking the summer off — he won’t play for the United States in the Rio Olympics — so he can heal physically and probably mentally, too. He will host a summer basketball camp in Hawaii. And there will be lots of his beloved golf, maybe even 18 holes with President Barack Obama.

While Curry expects to be healthy by the start of training camp, he admitted that the memory of the team’s collapse in the Finals will stick with him.

“Until we win again, for sure. It won’t define me and my career. It won’t keep me down going forward,” he said. “But until we get back to the stage and overcome this whole experience that just happened, yeah, I will think about it for a while.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.