NBA Playoffs 2013: Highlighting MVP Candidates from First-Round Action

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 30, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 28:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors drives against the Denver Nuggets during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 28, 2013 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The 2013 NBA playoffs are heating up as the first round gets set to conclude this weekend. 

But already, basketball fans have been treated to some memorable individual performances, including a few from a first-time playoff star out West.

While LeBron James and Kevin Durant have done what we've come to expect from them in recent years, Golden State's Stephen Curry has been raising the bar, turning ORACLE Arena into a highlight factory.

Here we'll take a closer look at the top first-round MVP candidates.


Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

You certainly wouldn't be able to tell that Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry was playing in his first-ever postseason series this spring.

The 25-year-old star has carried the sixth-seeded Dubs to an impressive 3-1 series lead over the third-seeded Denver Nuggets in the first round, averaging 27.3 points and 10 assists per game over those four games. In Game 4, Curry finished with a playoff career-high 31 points, but it was his third-quarter explosion that left NBA fans in awe.

Only Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant have scored more points than Curry through the first four games of the postseason this year, while no player has as many assists (40) or made three-pointers (18) as the playoff rookie.


Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder weren't able to close out and sweep the eight-seeded Houston Rockets on the road on Monday, but don't blame Kevin Durant.

Durant followed up a 41-point performance in Game 3 with a 38-point effort in Game 4, nailing 12-of-16 field goals and adding eight rebounds, six assists and this ferocious fourth-quarter jam.

The 6'9" superstar is tied with New York's Carmelo Anthony through the first four games of the playoffs, averaging 33 points per game but doing it much more efficiently. While Anthony is shooting a shade under 41 percent from the floor, Durant is connecting on nearly 49 percent of his shots from the field.

In addition to scoring for OKC, Durant is averaging eight rebounds and nearly six assists per game in the first round, ranking inside the top 15 in both of those categories this postseason.


LeBron James, Miami Heat

The reigning NBA MVP powered the top-seeded Miami Heat to a first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 24.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game over that four-game stretch.

While James struggled from downtown and at times from the foul line—hitting just 27 percent and 70 percent from those spots respectively—his 63 percent shooting from the floor and all-around performance, especially on defense, make him a top candidate for first-round MVP honors.

In Game 4 against Milwaukee, James delivered his best performance of the series, scoring 30 points on 65 percent shooting to help Miami close out the series without Dwyane Wade in the lineup.

Although we've become accustomed to seeing these sort of performances from LeBron, we can't discount them simply because they've become familiar.


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