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MVP conversation in the NBA heats up as the holidays approach, but rarely can a candidate be taken seriously before the annual All-Star showcase in February.
Stephen Curry's work over the weekend has made him that rare candidate.
The sixth-year point guard led the Warriors to the most impressive two-game segment of their 16-game win streak, a wire-to-wire win at Dallas on Saturday followed by an overtime victory at New Orleans.
[REWIND: Road success impressive part of Warriors' success]
That's the first statement of Curry's opening argument for MVP candidacy.
The second statement comes with Curry's numbers in those games. He averaged 31.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 5.0 rebounds. He shot 46.5 percent overall (20 of 43), 42.9 percent on 3-pointers (9 of 21) and 93.3 percent from the line (14 of 15).
The third statement was the way he opened in Dallas. Knowing the Mavericks posed a very real threat, Curry scored 13 points in the first quarter to give the Warriors a 39-18 lead. He was the only Warriors to play all 12 minutes of the quarter.
Curry made his presence felt at the very start, kicking his team in action.
The fourth statement was the way Curry finished in New Orleans. Once the game went into OT, he needed less than 2 1/2 minutes to pour in three jumpers, giving the Warriors a seven-point cushion (119-112) and burying the Pelicans.
Curry excelled in the role of closer, taking the Warriors home – as MVPs do. Coach Steve Kerr described Curry's late work as "crazy pyrotechnics from Steph."
The final argument, the most impressive of all, is this: center Andrew Bogut, considered almost as irreplaceable as Curry, was sitting on the bench in street clothes in both games.
Curry understood the difficulty of the weekend task without Bogut, who merits All-Star consideration for his work at both ends, and took it upon himself to fill in any necessary blanks.
For those who like to measure by numbers, Curry is fourth in the league in free throw shooting (92.5 percent), fifth in scoring (23.7 per game), fifth in assists (7.7) and eighth in steals (1.83). Among NBA point guards, only Boston's Rajon Rondo is averaging more rebounds than Curry's 5.1.
For those who like to measure by the numbers within the numbers, Curry's player efficiency rating of 27.20 ranks fourth in the league – but No. 1 among players on winning teams.
Several others are establishing themselves as emerging MVP candidates, most notably Rockets guard James Harden. With his performance in the absence of center Dwight Howard, Harden definitely joins Curry in the early conversation.
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The true NBA MVP candidate finds a higher level when his team needs it most. He provides whatever is necessary to be successful, whether it's scoring or passing or rebounding or defense. He pushes or pulls or simply leads.
Curry has been doing that all season, but never more than over the weekend.
The Warriors point guard is the centerpiece of the team with the best record in the NBA. He's wildly popular among fans and fellow players, he's smart with media and he aces the character test.
He's earning a check mark in every box on anyone's criteria list for an MVP.