NEW ORLEANS -– When it was over, after the Warriors had swept the New Orleans Pelicans in their first-round playoff series on Saturday, Stephen Curry walked off the court with his arms raised, acknowledging the cheers in an opposing arena.
With Pelicans fans filing out, leaving Smoothie King Center to hundreds of Warriors fans in the lower bowl, Curry was serenaded by the familiar chant as he entered the visiting locker room, victorious once more.
"MVP . . . MVP . . . MVP . . . MVP!"
Curry knocked down New Orleans with his sterling work and miracle shot in Game 3, and then knocked out the Pelicans with a more impressive effort in Game 4, a 109-98 win that sent the Warriors into the next round.
"He's an unbelievable player," Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. "He's the best player in the NBA right now, in my opinion. He's the MVP.
"The shots that he made in the last game and in this game . . . He just keeps us in the game, and gets a lot of us open shots because he commands so much attention."
Curry followed his 40-point performance in Game 3 with a 39-point final statement in a decisive Game 4. He had so crushed hopes around town Thursday night that his excellence was grudgingly accepted by the time he finished on Saturday.
"I've never seen anything like that," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "I watched a lot basketball when I was a kid but you didn't get all those games. Isiah Thomas was like that. But Steph is like . . . he's on a different level. Some of the shots he makes, his command of the ball, his ability to finish. And the moment doesn't bother him.
"I just can't describe it at times. It's easy to say he's playing at a high level. But I think he is in the elite of the elite right now. He's after something. This is important to him, and you can tell by the way he's playing."
Curry for the series averaged 33.8 points and 6.7 assists. He shot 45.3 percent overall, 41.7 percent from deep. More important, his shooting and court generalship improved as the series went on.
He was at his best in Game 4, draining 6-of-8 from deep and scoring 13 points over the final 9:05 to bury a New Orleans comeback.
"Steph was just Steph," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He was amazing."
These are the moments for which Curry lives. He's the guy who can't forget the slights and the rejection of his teenage years, when he was told he was too short or too thin or not athletic enough to compete with the best.
Curry has proved his worth in the NBA, but is not yet ready to release that motivational chip. The way it's working for him, he may never let it go.