A couple hours after hoisting his MVP trophy over his head and receiving a well-deserved ovation from the sellout crowd Tuesday night at Oracle Arena, Stephen Curry was robbed by, of all perpetrators, a masked man.
Mike Conley stole Steph's night. Swiped it under Steph's nose, in front Steph's teammates and Steph's adoring fans.
Curry had a deep desire to lead the Warriors to a Game 2 win over Memphis that would give them a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Conley, playing for the first time in 11 days and wearing a mask to protect his surgically repaired face, wouldn't allow it.
It's a battle of the point guard in what will be the pivotal matchup of this Western Conference semifinals.
If Conley continues to win the personal battle, the Grizzlies then have a chance – just a chance – to win this series, which resumes Saturday at the FedEx Forum, AKA The Grindhouse, in Memphis.
But this is where Steph usually is at his best. He's wired to respond to his detractors.
Coming off a whirlwind 36 hours, Curry was beaten up, knocked down and reminded of the difficulty of winning in the NBA playoffs. So now the doubters are whispering and the staunchly unconvinced are clearing their throats.
Meanwhile, Curry is rebooting for Game 3 and beyond.
"We all kind of just were sitting around and trying to understand what happened, what we didn't do right, what we can do better for next game," Curry said after Game 2. "There wasn't really a lot said. I'm okay with that, just kind of feel the (mood) of the team. We're all disappointed. We let a good opportunity to go 2‑0 in the series go, but I'm very confident in our resiliency coming back and playing well for Game 3. So I'm not worried about that at all."
Curry leveled his gaze and bit his lip, as if itching to get back on the floor with Conley and the Grizzlies.
Coach Steve Kerr is fond of saying the Warriors seem to summon their best work when there is a clear and present threat. After opening the playoff with five straight victories, losing one – at home, no less – poses exactly that.
"They kicked our butts," Kerr said. "They controlled the whole game, and we have to learn from this."
After taking Wednesday off, the Warriors on Thursday spent more than two hours on video review and scrimmaging. They now know they're in a series, even if Conley can't be much better than he was in Game 2.
Conley was a defensive factor, as were Tony Allen and Courtney Lee. Memphis did a terrific job of defending the 3-point arc. It's up to the Warriors to determine adjustments, and it's up to Curry to see that those adjustments are implemented.
It begins with Steph winning his personal battle.
"He's going to make plays, obviously, and the whole team's going to make plays," Curry said of Conley. "But it was good for us to kind of see what they're like with him back, because we'll have to face him the rest of the series."
No doubt several factors that contributed to the Warriors losing Game 2 and falling into a 1-1 series tie, but nothing resonated as strongly as Curry vs. Conley, the clear MVP of Game 2.
Conley won that battle, his team won the game and that's no coincidence. Seeing him pull off his returning hero act in Oakland, where the Warriors have been practically unbeatable, was highly impressive.
It was enough, indeed, to give the Grizzlies a sizable boost in confidence. Which is the kind of challenge at which Curry loves to take aim.