With the result of the NBA Finals now essentially confirmed, many people may start getting uninterested with the remainder of the series. However, there is still something to look forward to: The “battle” between Steph Curry and Kevin Durant for the Finals MVP.
Curry was the early favorite after the first two games. He averaged 31 points, 8.5 assists, and 6.5 rebounds in those first two games while shooting 45% from the field and 50% from three-point territory. The two-time MVP was playing like it was the 2015-2016 regular season all over again.
He was knocking shots from almost everywhere and made all the right plays when the Warriors needed him to. His fans were excited for him, even if he’s said that winning the Finals MVP wasn’t important to him. Steph Curry was finally going to win a Finals MVP and put an end to the (largely false) narrative that he doesn’t perform well on the game’s biggest stage.
Unfortunately, Game 3 happened, and Steph’s abysmal performance may have derailed his chances for the award. Shooting 3/16 from the field and 1/10 from distance will do that to you. Curry’s averages are now down to 24.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. His percentages are now also down to 38.5% from the field and 39.5% from downtown.
On the other hand, Kevin Durant had been a steady presence for the Warriors in the first two games before erupting in Game 3, and is now the favorite to win the award. Durant averaged “only” 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in the first two games while shooting 50% from the field and 30% from three-point territory.
But after going for 43 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists in Game 3, those numbers are now up to 31.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game while shooting 55.9% from the field and 47.4% from long-range.
As long as this series ends early, statistically, it would be difficult for Curry to catch up with Durant. However, if he does put up a performance similar to the ones he had in the first two games– particularly Game 2– and Durant has a relatively quiet game, then Steph may be able to sway a number of voters his way who may look at how he was the Warriors’ best player for three of the four games that they won.
In terms of their respective legacies as perceived by the public, the Finals MVP means more for Steph Curry than for Kevin Durant, no matter what Curry says. It is the only “winnable” accolade for him that he hasn’t received yet, and there are still some detractors who hold that against him.
For Kevin Durant, nothing he accomplishes while with the Warriors will be viewed as significantly enhancing to his legacy, but the award and the supposed validation that comes with it does matter to him more than it does to Curry.
Game 4 (or the entire season, really) may end up being just a formality for the Warriors’ coronation, but at least it gives us an interesting individual battle between two players on the same team. Even in the most predictable situations, the NBA always finds a way to keep things interesting.