Stephen Curry has been incredible in these Finals, but he won’t win the NBA Finals MVP in 2017, two years after teammate Andre Iguodala deservedly received the same award. The Warriors could win on Friday evening, claim their second championship in three years, and even average output from one Kevin waitforitwhileIlookitup Wayne Durant in Game 4 would just-as-legitimately earn the trophy for this year’s championship round.
Curry, the MVP of the whole damn league in 2015 and 2016, most certainly did not win the award last season, when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. When a recovering Curry averaged a so-so-for-him 22.6 points on 40 percent shooting, with just 3.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and six steals in seven games.
Steph has six steals in the 2017 Finals, in three contests. This time around, it feels as if Curry (the NBA’s steals leader in 2016, third in 2015) gobbles up as many in the second quarter alone.
The two-time league MVP averages 28.7 points on 45 percent shooting so far, he’s hit 15 three-pointers at a 48.3 percent clip (his last Finals saw him at an even 40), and he nearly averages double-figure rebounds alongside his nine assists per game. He’s taking great chances but also throwing passes away: eight turnovers in Game 2 alone. Still, only three in the other two wins, hardly resembling the 30 total in the seven-game 2016 NBA Finals (which the Warriors lost after building a 3-1 lead).
He’s different. He’s well. In peak fitness in comparison to any year, but specific to his legacy Curry is healthy in comparison to the 2016 playoffs. Curry did not struggle mightily after initially returning from his MCL sprain during the 2016 postseason, he scored 40 points in his first night back, added 29 points and 11 assists in Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and averaged 28 points (on 44 percent shooting) with 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.1 steals per contest on the seven-game series.
The steals and rebounds, as always, are the sign of an active pair of legs. Those stats, and the run of 14 days off (which, during the postseason, always feels like an eternity: LeBron’s Cavs topped the Celtics that long ago), led many of us to conclude that Curry was fully back. That the medical re-evaluation after two weeks, as initially diagnosed, was something more than the Warriors signing off on Stephen Curry to return to basketball – it was, to some, supposed to indicate that he was an assured MVP again.
That stamp, and those stats against the Thunder acted as a guarantee that not only was Curry healthy enough to play again, he was healthy enough to dominate. Watching how hesitant and uneven he looked in the Thunder series (in spite of great numbers), it was understandable to wonder aloud if Curry’s iffy spirit status would catch up to him at some point.
His play in the Finals, with dodgier results following the same nearly-there activity, seems to have evened things out at the exact worst time. His play was no sin, but it wasn’t Steph. In a seven-game series, that’s going to run out.
The point guard was on one leg, and that affects everything in the end. Stephen Curry was never going to be fully right until the 2016 offseason, which also went right for Golden State in one significant other way, eventually. Without taking anything away from the legendary work of the champion Cavaliers, it’s entirely fair to wonder if Stephen’s on-court skepticism and outright physical imbalances (watch the way he tried to steady his various quadrants for jumpers, and drives) may have cost the Warriors a title.
Curry isn’t the top reason Golden State has outscored Cleveland by 46 points in this series through three games, as the Warriors have Kevin Durant now. We don’t want to turn Stephen into a martyr, but he will be passed over for the MVP again, unless this thing somehow goes long and Durant inexplicably falls off. Just as Steph was treated like an afterthought novelty in the (still-unsettled) 2016 MVP discussion, despite his reigning two-time presence. The unwanted CD you used to rip out of your car’s old disc changer, while you hurriedly unwrapped your shiny, new compact disc purchase.
Curry’s the guy that gets made fun of for his shoes. Literally. An NBA player. Joe DiMaggio for years could somehow convince a generation of Yankee fans living in the coffee capital of North America that Mr. Coffee products were somehow good, LeBron has us going with that whole affordable sedan thing he’s trying, and yet Curry can’t even get enough young punks to buy his shoes as a bit.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook, contemporaries, gave the point guard position something “new” in 2016-17 in usage-heavy ways Curry (who will work his 74th career playoff game on Friday, despite potentially working just 16 playoff games each of the last two seasons) probably never wants to emulate.
Curry acted bemused throughout their MVP race and doesn’t really deserve extra nice guy points for not inserting himself into the discussion – unless you acknowledge the presence of Shaq and grade these things on a curve. Instead of discussing the obvious mitigating circumstances from the 2016 postseason, Curry answered questions about his daffy late-game turnover in Game 7, and the missed shot that could have given Golden State the (arguable) best part of its three-peat sandwich.
Without trying to lionize a guy who has been as ubiquitous as street lamps have been reliable since 2014, Curry’s just been as cool with that as any of the more notable, award-winning, upswings. The media never turned him into a martyr as they did with Larry Bird in 1985, when the Celtic champ struggled through a sub-par title defense due almost entirely to injury while in his absolute prime as a player. Kevin Durant’s going to eventually lead his Warriors to a title. Caveat-less 3-1 jokes will remain, because they are hilarious.
Stephen Curry’s cool with all of this. Probably because he’s healthy.
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