Curry shoots back into MVP form

The Washington Post Sunday - - PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL - BY TIM BONTEMPS tim.bontemps@wash­

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.

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