Stephen Curry further strengthened his case to be the NBA MVP as he propelled the Golden State Warriors to victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday, with coach Steve Kerr clearly in no doubt he deserves the award.
Curry is not regarded as a frontrunner to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy for the third time in his glittering career, with Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid seen as the favourites.
However, Curry continues to make an increasingly compelling argument. Since returning on March 29 from a tailbone contusion that forced him to miss five games, Curry is averaging 37.7 points per game, comfortably the most in the league, with Embiid (30.1) a distant second.
Just once in his previous 13 games has Curry failed to reach 30 points. He has four 40-point games in that span, including a 49-point performance that inspired the Warriors to a win over Embiid's Sixers, as well as a 53-point effort in a victory against Jokic and the Nuggets on April 12.
That display versus Denver saw him rattle home 10 three-pointers. He has hit double-digit threes in four games since April 12, a tally that on its own would be third on the all-time list behind Warriors team-mate Klay Thompson (5) and himself (21).
Curry went four of nine from beyond the arc as he produced a decidedly more modest 32-point game in this latest 118-97 win over the Nuggets.
And Kerr kept it short and sweet when asked if Curry should be the league's MVP. "Yes," he replied with a smile at his post-game media conference.
Curry did not score a point in the first quarter and battled through an ankle injury to find his stroke and delight the 2,000 fans allowed into Chase Center for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced spectators out of arenas back in 2020.
"He just felt something in his ankle but the training staff said he was ok to continue. He looked hobbled but then he was fine. I thought he played a great game," Kerr added.
"It took him a while to get into the game, the beauty of Steph is that he's always so poised, no matter what the circumstances and he's always going to find a way to get himself going."
Curry, meanwhile, lavished praise on Draymond Green, who supplied a career-high 19 assists.
"When he gets in a groove like that where he's getting everybody involved, and having a Draymond-type night where scoring's not really the difference-maker, it's the way that he does the intangibles," Curry said.
"And then makes everybody better by getting the ball on time, can finish off plays. He's the smartest basketball player I've played with, and it shows in moments and games like tonight where he just finds a way to impact winning in his own way."
The subject of MVP chants during the game, Curry also had kind words for the supporters who relished their opportunity to watch the action in person once more.
"It was really nice for sure," Curry added. "Considering what we've all been through the last 409 days. That was awesome.
"Even pulling up, driving around the arena when I got here three hours early, you see all the ushers outside waiting to get in, understanding that they're excited to get back to work.
"Just a little bit different of a buzz inside and outside the arena. I know you got to take it slow and obviously keep everybody safe but ramp up how many people can get in the building and slowly but surely get back to a full, packed house where that energy is second to none.
"Us on the floor, we live off of that. You try to bring it when it's an empty arena. You do your best, but it makes such a difference with fans."