The preference is to go down swinging. That's why the Warriors' last loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was so tough to watch. Losing a critical game with Stephen Curry taking only 10 shots feels like the Warriors aren't going down swinging.

But what's really happening, what can't be lost in the frustration of another close loss, is that Curry is still learning. And this is a step he can't skip. It's like a video game, preventing him from getting to the next level until he conquers this one.

And because he doesn't have another star to demote him to co-pilot, it becomes even harder to win while on this stage.

Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) is double-teamed by Los Angeles Clippers’ J.J. Redick (4) and Blake Griffin during the second half of
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) is double-teamed by Los Angeles Clippers' J.J. Redick (4) and Blake Griffin during the second half of Game 4 of their Western Conference NBA playoff, Sunday, April 27, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won, 118-97. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group) ( D. ROSS CAMERON )

"I hope over the next two, three, four, five years," Curry said after Wednesday's practice, "I will have the opportunity to succeed in the playoffs. That's the mission. ... I will definitely get better and hopefully I will be playing these meaningful games at the end of the year so I can showcase that."

Curry has come up with some magic before. And if it was as easy as flipping a switch, he'd do it again. But that's the thing. It's not easy. And it gets increasingly harder.

In his second playoff stint, the Clippers have decided they are not going to let Curry beat them. And if he does, you better believe the awaiting Memphis Grizzlies or Oklahoma City Thunder will draw the same conclusion.


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So Curry's got to learn. How to get his shot off against two people. How to not be deterred by constant grabbing, holding and bumping. How to decipher that moment when it's time for him to throw out the playbook.

He won't learn it all in a series, or a season. It may take a few years and some failures. He may prove he's not best as the head of the snake. Either way, he doesn't get to skip this step.

Many lone stars have had the holes in their game exposed under the bright light of the postseason, forcing them to improve.

Michael Jordan was swept in his first three series and had six trips to the playoffs before becoming the postseason master we revere. As great as LeBron James is, he was criticized for years before learning how to attack defenses centered on shutting him down.

Even Chris Paul, the best point guard in the game, has gotten out of the first round just twice in five previous playoff appearances. Never past the second round.

The fastest answer is to get the head of the snake another head. It's why Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen went to Boston, why James and Chris Bosh took their talents to Miami. Why Carmelo Anthony might opt out of his contract and go to Chicago with Derrick Rose.

Curry doesn't have that luxury right now, to let somebody else carry the Warriors for a while. Even last year, Jarrett Jack proved perfectly capable of running the show.

Now, it's on Curry. Not just to score but to be the catalyst. To decide aptly when to be either. This series, he is figuring it out against a championship coach and a Hall of Fame point guard who are armed with bigger and stronger players.

The Clippers have quite the game plan to stop Curry. Paul is making it his business to stay attached to Curry, and that's not good considering Paul's strength, athleticism and experience advantage.

On top of that, Paul has backup. Namely, two extremely athletic big men in DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, who can help him trap Curry. They prevent Curry from coming off pick-and-rolls and pulling up for 3 or turning the corner and getting into the lane.

Golden State's second-favorite option is to move Curry off the ball, turning him into a shooting guard. But the Clippers have gotten progressively better at defending this, too. Paul chases Curry without hesitation because he knows a teammate will meet Curry where he's headed. So either the pass isn't open or Curry catches it and is facing a double-team.

"It is frustrating at times when, possession after possession, it seems there are two bodies in front of you," Curry said. "I've got to be one step ahead. Obviously that's the game within the game, the adjustments and having the IQ to know your opponent."

So what is Curry to do? Figure it out.

Learning of his weaknesses and correcting, figuring out what works and what doesn't, pushing his limits. That's part of Curry's growth. That's the step he's on. And since he's the head of the snake, the Warriors may not advance until he does.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.

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    having a tough go

    Warriors guard Stephen Curry has yet to come up with much playoff magic in the first-round series against the Clippers. Here's a look at the All-Star's numbers through five games:

    Gm RESULT PTS FG-FGA FT-FTA 3P-3PA REB AST
    1 W, 109-105 14 6-16 0-0 2-6 3 7
    2 L, 138-98 24 9-17 5-5 1-7 1 8
    3 L, 98-96 16 5-12 3-4 3-8 2 15
    4 W, 118-97 33 10-20 6-7 7-14 7 7
    5 L, 113-103 17 5-10 3-3 4-7 3 4