NBA

He's always spectacular these days - Curry brilliance endures in latest MVP-level showing

By Sports Desk May 09, 2021

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of Stephen Curry's enduring brilliance is that nobody is surprised by it, not least Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Kerr had the best seat in the house at Chase Center as Curry produced another remarkable showcase of his unparalleled shooting ability in the Warriors' 136-97 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

It was a deluge of points from Curry, who scored 49 points in just 29 minutes, responding magnificently to the 50 points scored by Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, with whom he is engaged in battle for the NBA scoring title. 

Twenty-four of those points came in the first quarter and he tallied 22 in the third, marking the eighth time this season he has scored at least 20 in a quarter.

Curry went 14 of 26 from the field and 11 of 21 from the three-point line. It was the seventh game of the season in which Curry has made double-digit three-pointers. He has achieved that feat 22 times in his career and five times in his last 15 games.

He is averaging a league-high 31.9 points per game and has racked up at least 30 in 19 of the last 21 games.

"It seems like he's just always spectacular these days," Kerr said. "And tonight, he topped it. Really spectacular.

"When he got going in the third, we had about 4,000 fans in the stands and you could just hear every one of them in anticipation of the ball going in the hoop.

"It's just amazing. The skill level is matched by his confidence level, and magical things happen."

For all his incredible feats this season, Curry is not the favourite to win what would be a third MVP, with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets still seen as the frontrunner.

Asked if he believes Curry is the MVP, Kerr left no room for doubt.

"Of course, I do," Kerr replied. "I get to watch this show every single night and I have just so much admiration for what Steph does every single night not only on the floor but the way he carries himself and the way he is an example for all of his team-mates."

Curry was a touch more reserved about his stunning run of form.

"It's been a great run, obviously, trying to continue it," he said.

"Nights like tonight when you want to get off to a good start knowing we should win this game, and they were going to come out and try to give themselves some life early, we wanted to take that away.

"Offensively, just trying to create any type of space. When you see the first two [three-pointers] go down, you start to find another level of confidence even to start the game and try to create an avalanche from there."

The Warriors will likely need a few more of those avalanches to secure the eighth seed in the play-in tournament for the playoffs. They are a game ahead of the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, but face the top two seeds in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, on Monday and Tuesday.

They then take on the New Orleans Pelicans before rounding out the regular season against the Grizzlies on May 16.

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    Brooklyn Nets stars Kyrie Irving and James Harden will both miss Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Milwaukee Bucks due to injury.

    Irving sprained his right ankle in the Nets' 107-96 loss in Game 4 on Sunday and underwent an MRI which confirmed he would not be available for Tuesday's clash, with the NBA playoff series in tied at 2-2.

    Nets guard Irving joins former MVP Harden on the sidelines, with the latter still absence because of a hamstring he re-injured in Game 1.

    Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash said the length of Irving's absence remains unknown.

    "I have to wait and see how it progresses, I think," Nash said.

    "And then the experts would have to wait and see how it progresses and give you a clearer picture on what the window would be for his return."

    Nash added that Harden was "working out right now" but was unclear on his return to play timeframe.

    The second-seeded Nets – eyeing their maiden championship – have battled injuries throughout the 2020-21 campaign, with Harden missing 21 games late in the regular season due to his troublesome hamstring.

    "It's tough to lose great players but we've lost guys all season," Nash said. "If there's any silver linings, it's that we've continued to win games regardless of who's been available.

    "We've been able to adapt on the fly which is difficult to do sometimes. That's something we have some experience with. We should have some comfort and belief."

    The absence of two-thirds of the 'Big Three' puts a heavy burden on Kevin Durant, although Nash insisted it was not just about him.

    "This does not fall on Kevin, this falls on the Nets," Nash said. "We've got to find a way together to play great basketball on both ends of the floor. We've proven we can do it.

    "We try to stick to our principles and fundamentals, which is connectivity, competitive spirit, embracing the opportunity and playing together as a team."

  • Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires Magical Messi served Chile pain again as Martinez misfires

    It was a modest record for a player as magnificent as Lionel Messi: three games, two final defeats, one red card, no goals.

    But the Barcelona great's Copa America performances against Chile prior to Monday's curtain-raising clash were not entirely out of keeping with the rest of his Argentina career.

    There have been moments of magic, of course, but just 15 goals across 46 Copa America and World Cup appearances ahead of this game. Meanwhile, not since 2007-08 has Messi fallen short of averaging a goal every two games for Barca, let alone one every three.

    Even Messi himself could not reasonably argue his international displays have come close to the standard set at club level.

    And while World Cup failures will always remain at the forefront of any such discussion – his achievements in contrast to Diego Maradona's one-man show in 1986 – the Copa America has provided its fair share of pain.

    The final defeats to Chile in 2015 and 2016 were among three for Messi and four for Argentina since their 14th and most recent title in 1993.

    Those two in consecutive years both came courtesy of penalty shoot-outs. Messi scored his spot-kick in the first match but missed the following year, setting his side on their way to another sore setback.

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    It took 33 minutes, in which the absence of an atmosphere again jarred, but Messi rose to that challenge when presented with a free-kick in a central position, dipped over the wall and beyond the grasp of Claudio Bravo.

    That was one of seven Messi shots and he played four key passes, too. On paper, this ranked alongside Neymar's efforts.

    By full-time, though, it was a frustratingly familiar tale, as the supporting cast proved unable to suitably assist their superstar.

    Messi's excellence has excused a whole generation of Argentina internationals, absolved of blame because their great number 10 should have been able to win major tournaments alone.

    Too many hugely talented players have misfired on the big stage; Lionel Scaloni sent out some past and present examples.

    Lautaro Martinez is supposed to be the face of a young, new team. He had 11 goals in 23 prior internationals and should have added to that tally more than once in Rio de Janeiro.

    The Inter forward failed to hit the target with any of his three attempts and optimistically appealed for a foul following two of them when he inexplicably missed from point-blank range.

    And Martinez's frustration unfortunately came to the fore after 62 minutes when he lunged into an awful challenge on Charles Aranguiz under the nose of the referee and escaped with a booking.

    The 23-year-old's evening might have ended early with a red card. Instead, it was cut short by the introduction of Sergio Aguero.

    Chile had equalised five minutes prior to Martinez's moment of madness, one of a series of rash attempted tackles punished as a VAR review found Nicolas Tagliafico had made contact with Arturo Vidal in the area.

    Vidal took the penalty and Emiliano Martinez turned it onto the crossbar, but Eduardo Vargas was on hand to nod in his 13th Copa America goal – staying three clear of Messi and climbing into the top 10 all-time.

    Aguero followed Angel Di Maria onto the pitch as Argentina sought a response. Both players were not so long ago out of the picture under Scaloni, having previously been part of the Messi-led team that repeatedly came up short.

    In each Chile final, Di Maria started. Aguero was introduced from the bench in one and in the XI for the other.

    As on those occasions, there were no heroics from either on Monday. Di Maria, now 33, had two shots but neither troubled Bravo. Aguero, also 33, was caught offside once.

    Messi will be the story if Argentina do not deliver silverware in the coming weeks, just as he will be should they finally get over the hump.

    But the same problems persist. When Messi's free-kick set the stage, it was Martinez who could not step up, underwhelming again like too many past Argentina attackers.

    If this is to be the tournament in which Messi reaches his promised land, he is going to need some help.

  • Argentina 1-1 Chile: Vargas salvages a point after Messi moment of magic Argentina 1-1 Chile: Vargas salvages a point after Messi moment of magic

    A sublime Lionel Messi free-kick was not enough for Argentina to start the Copa America with a victory as Chile striker Eduardo Vargas salvaged a 1-1 draw.

    Argentina had much the better of the first half and mercurial captain Messi put them in front with a brilliant free-kick in the Group B encounter at Estadio Nilton Santos.

    Vargas came to Chile's rescue after the break, heading home the rebound after Emiliano Martinez saved Arturo Vidal's penalty.

    Nicolas Gonzalez was particularly wasteful as Argentina were unable to secure what would have been a deserved victory in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

    Messi is yet to win a trophy with Argentina following back-to-back runners-up performances at the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, having also fallen short in the 2007 final against Brazil.

    Giovani Lo Celso was Chile's chief tormentor in a promising start from the Albiceleste, setting up chances that Lautaro Martinez and Gonzalez were unable to take.

    Gonzalez headed over the crossbar after his shot was palmed away by Claudio Bravo and the forward also failed to beat the Chile goalkeeper with a tame finish when the lively Lo Celso sent him clear with an incisive pass.

    Messi produced yet another moment of magic to put Argentina in front, though, bending a brilliant free-kick into the top-right corner after 33 minutes.

    An unmarked Martinez spurned a glorious chance to add a second when he scuffed a shot wide and Lionel Scaloni's side were made to pay for their profligacy when Chile levelled 12 minutes into the second half.

    Vidal was awarded a spot-kick for a rash challenge from Nicolas Tagliafico after referee Wilmar Roldan checked the pitchside monitor and although the midfielder's penalty was brilliantly tipped against the crossbar by Martinez, Vargas nodded in following up.

    Bravo palmed away Messi's drive 20 minutes from time and Gonzalez headed over the bar when his skipper presented him with another golden opportunity in a frustrating start for Argentina.

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