Sometimes Stephen Curry happens.
In the Golden State Warriors' 116-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night at Oracle Arena, Stephen Curry happened in a big way. He dribbled and ducked and shot and passed the Warriors to victory, leaving the floor with 45 points and 10 assists.
And the NBA's MVP award.
That's the type of performance this was—not just an MVP-worthy effort, but an MVP-clinching masterpiece.
This was a game the Warriors didn't need. It had no bearing on their playoff seed or even their first-round opponent. Curry didn't need to log 35 minutes. He didn't need to hit "detonate" when the Blazers tied the game leading into the fourth quarter, or when they recaptured the lead in the fourth, or when they answered Golden State's offensive explosion with one of their own.
He didn't need to do anything.
But he did everything.
More specifically, he did everything in the fourth quarter, seizing control of the Warriors offense, seemingly taking head coach Steve Kerr's late-game advice to heart.
"Just do what we do: Move the ball," Kerr told Lewis Johnson on the TNT telecast after the third quarter. "When we share and we move it and we get the ball humming on the perimeter, then we can attack the rim. If they're gonna go small, we need to put it on the floor and attack a little bit more and get to the line."
For the most part, Curry did everything he suggested. The Warriors didn't get to the line with incredible frequency, but Curry kept the offense humming, weaving in and out of the paint and dropping passes off while leaving the Blazers defense thoroughly confused and, thus, helpless.
Curry tallied 19 points and two assists on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting in the game's final installment alone. Every time the Blazers answered—which happened a lot—he countered yet again. Whether it was passing out of a triple-team in transition to hit a cutting Andre Iguodala for an easy two or swishing a long three with LaMarcus Aldridge in his face, he did it.
All told, Curry shot 73.9 percent from the field overall, hitting 17 of his 23 shots, including a mind-melting eight of 13 from downtown.
To answer your question, yes, that makes for an unreal shot chart:
Amid all this, Curry also set the record for three-pointers made by one player in a single season, breaking the previous mark—his own—of 272. He now has 276.
Bleacher Report's Kelly Scaletta puts this in proper perspective:
Breaking history? Willing the Warriors to victory?
It's almost as if Curry were trying to tell us something.
Oh, that's right. He was, and as ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton explains, it goes a little something like this:
Kerr put Curry's performance, his entire magical season, into layman's terms, per Golden State of Mind's Andy Liu:
Even the NBA itself felt compelled to break character and weigh in:
At times like these, on the heels of games likes this, it's difficult to remember that the MVP race was considered a five- or six-headed monster not too long ago. James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and even Chris Paul, in addition to Curry, all saw their names tossed into the ring.
Gradually, though, the field has thinned out, whittling itself down to two: Curry and Harden.
Now there's Curry, standing on his own, the clear-cut MVP favorite more than ever before after taking a game with no meaning and infusing it with profound purpose.
Vast MVP pools are great for debate. Even two names make for entertaining and impassioned water-cooler confabs. But Curry is officially in a league of his own, for both conventional and unorthodox reasons.
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As always, there's the normal case. He's the best player on the NBA's best team. He's third in win shares (14.7). He's third in player efficiency rating (27.6). He's routinely recording provocative stat lines.
Traditional arguments don't do Curry's case justice, though. There's a less calculated element to his candidacy, one that was on display Thursday night, just as it has been time and time again for the entire season.
One that's simple, to the point and incapable of being ignored.
Curry is the league's MVP because, quite literally, he's the most valuable player alive.
*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.