OAKLAND -– While Stephen Curry was lighting up the Portland Trail Blazers for 45 points Thursday night at Oracle Arena, his primary competition for the MVP award was campaigning for himself in Houston.
"I feel as though I am the MVP," Rockets guard James Harden told Fran Blinebury of NBA.com. "I think the MVP is the most valuable player to your team. Obviously you have to be winning and be one of the top teams in this league and we are.
"I'm not taking credit away from anybody else in the league. But I've been consistent all year. I've just been doing the right things to put my team in situations to win, considering all of the different circumstances we've had to deal with."
Informed of Harden's comments after leading the Warriors to a 116-105 win over the Blazers, Curry merely shrugged as he strolled toward the trainer's room.
"Ahh . . . that might have been a little aggressive," the point guard told CSN Bay Area.
If there was a night for Curry to leap onto the campaign trail, this was it. There was the 45 points on 17-of-23 shooting, including 8-of-13 beyond the arc. There was the 19-point fourth quarter – on 7-of-7 shooting – that buried the Blazers. And there were the 10 assists, just because he could.
And yet, Curry declined to make the jump. So others spoke on his behalf.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr opened his postgame news conference with a grin and a look of semi-disbelief.
"Nothing left to say . . . except that he's the MVP," Kerr said.
"I don't have a vote," Warriors CEO Joe Lacob said, "But all I'm saying is, it would be criminal if he doesn't get it. Period."
Warriors forward David Lee has watched Curry's act for five seasons. Lee has seen the highs, the lows and the moments of dizzying spectacle. He saw it once again Thursday night.
"There were times when it got pretty close, but it seemed like every time that happened Steph hit a couple of big shots for us," Lee said. "And on top of that, the way he finished the game was just incredible.
"So once again, the MVP of the league, to me, stepped up and made some big plays and did what he does."
Center Andrew Bogut has consistently opined that Curry is the MVP. Forward Draymond Green has beaten the same drum, as has guard Klay Thompson and pretty much any other Warrior addressing the subject.
And, of course, there was the Oracle crowd on Thursday, serenading Curry with MVP chants several times during the evening.
Even Harden, in Houston, seemed to concede that Curry is the guy he has to beat – even though he feels the race is over.
While pointing out how his work has helped the Rockets overcome an assortment of injuries this season, Harden clearly has Curry on his mind.
"I'm looking at all those things put together," Harden told NBA.com. "Like I said, not taking away from Steph or that team. It's an unbelievable season that they're having. But we're having a pretty good season as well with all the injuries and all that we've been going through this season.
"Look, I understand that people can go either way with it. But for the most valuable player, I think I would have the edge."
Not in Oracle Arena. Not on this night. Not among those who watch Curry on a consistent basis. Not to those who point the 11-game disparity between the teams.
"In any other year, maybe he is," Lacob said of Harden's MVP claim. "He's great. He is deserving – in any other year, maybe."