Curry shoots back into MVP form
oakland, calif. — For the first two months of the NBA’s regular season, the biggest question surrounding the Golden State Warriors was whether Stephen Curry could get back to the heights he reached over the past two seasons, both of which ended in him winning the league’s MVP award and leading the Warriors to the NBA Finals, claiming one of them.
For the past six weeks, the biggest question surrounding the Warriors has been different: How could anyone have doubted him? And, as Curry has gotten back to regularly torching the league, another question seems at least worth considering: Could he somehow work his way back into the conversation for a third straight MVP award?
“You know, just know, that Steph is capable of incredible games like tonight, and streaks, stretches — whatever you want to call it,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said after Golden State’s 126-111 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night. “He’s in a good groove, and it all makes sense. When you think about it, adding [Kevin Durant] and seven new players to the roster, and Steph’s the point guard, I think he kind of had to settle in and figure it all out.
“He’s obviously much more comfortable now than he was a couple of months back.”
That’s apparent to anyone who has watched the Warriors recently, with Wednesday’s game serving as the latest example. Curry was sensational in Golden State’s 15-point win — a margin that felt like it was triple that number — putting up an eye-popping line: 39 points on 14-for-20 shooting from the field and 11-for-15 accuracy from three-point range to go along with five rebounds, eight assists, three steals and just one turnover in 30 minutes.
But, like he did so many times the past two years, he put up those numbers while also producing memorable moments along the way. There was burying his first four three-pointers to start the game, going 6 for 8 in the first quarter. There was his ridiculous crossover against Marvin Williams — one so brutal that Williams was left to futilely try to crawl after Curry as he buried yet another threepointer in the latter stages of the second quarter.
And then he finished the third quarter just two threes shy of the single-game record he set earlier this season but never got off the bench in the final period as the game was already well in hand.
Curry went an astonishing 26 for 42 from long range over a three-game stretch capped by the Charlotte game. He shot just 3 for 10 on threes in the Warriors’ 133-120 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night but has improved his season percentage to 41.8 going into Saturday and left teammates like Durant in awe.
“That’s crazy,” Durant said. “He’s shooting threes like other guys shoot twos.”
These are the kinds of things Curry was doing, and the kinds of comments Curry was inspiring, on a regular basis over the past two years as he ran roughshod over the NBA en route to molding the Warriors into the league’s dominant team and himself into the sport’s most popular player.
Now can Curry somehow force his way back into an MVP conversation?
James Harden remains the likely front-runner, thanks to his combination of statistical prowess and his Houston Rockets residing near the top of the West, but the Rockets have stumbled a bit the past few weeks. Kawhi Leonard has continued to be excellent for the San Antonio Spurs, who have the NBA’s second-best record, but he has gotten almost no buzz for the award.
Russell Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double, but the Thunder has lost six of 11 and is on pace to win about 45 games — far fewer than any recent MVP has won. And LeBron James remains arguably the league’s best player, but his Cleveland Cavaliers had gone 5-7 in their past 12 games entering Saturday and James has recently picked fights with his front office and Charles Barkley. Even Durant, who was talked about as a potential MVP candidate thanks to his terrific all-around play this season, has been overshadowed in recent games by the return of Curry’s dominant form.
Curry still has an uphill battle to truly get himself back into the MVP conversation, and given the narrative around these Warriors because of the amount of talent on their roster, it’s a long shot to imagine him walking away with a third consecutive MVP trophy.
But the fact that Curry has played well enough to get himself back in the conversation shows how dominant he has been over the past several weeks. And that dominance has reasserted both the Warriors and Curry in the places they have grown accustomed to over the past two years: at the top of the sport, lording over it and having fun doing so.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry, here driving against Miami on Jan. 23, enjoyed a recent three-game stretch in which he went 26 for 42 on three-pointers.