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What does Steph Curry's MVP have to do with Michael Jordan?

What does Steph Curry's MVP have to do with Michael Jordan?

That Stephen Curry is the MVP of the NBA for the second year in a row should come as a surprise to no one. That he’s the first unanimous winner in the 61-year history of the trophy – a feat that even the likes of Michael Jordan couldn’t achieve – might be.

Curry earned all 131 first-place votes Tuesday, less than 24 hours after he played for the first time in a scintillating Game 4 of a West semifinal series with the Portland Trail Blazers. Curry, who had been out with a knee injury since the first round, had 40 points (17 in overtime), nine rebounds and eight assists in a crucial 132-125 win for the Golden State Warriors to take a 3-1 lead.

It was the perfect timing for the league's announcement. Curry raised his scoring average from 23.8 as an MVP in 2014-15 to 30.1; his single-season three-pointers made record from 286 to 402; became the first scoring champion from the franchise since Rick Barry in 1966-67; and led Golden State to a record 73 wins.

It’s fitting that in surpassing Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10) that Curry became unanimous. 

Former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady, who is a good analyst for ESPN by the way, was critical of the NBA in general.  Here's what he said about it all: “For him to be the first player to get this unanimously, I think it just shows you how watered down our league is.”

That logic is flawed. The league is "watered down" may be more of a statement of what it looks like at the bottom (and I doubt even that's true), but even if McGrady is correct that doesn't have as much to do with Curry being unanimous. The top is still heavy on superstars and stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler and Dirk Nowitzki. And there are rising stars such as Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis. 

Of course, debates also will rage that Curry isn’t better than Jordan therefore doesn’t deserve to be unanimous but that’s as short-sighted as hot-take analysis can get -- and irrelevant. Other than James (Cavs), who came in third in the voting, who rivals Curry in terms of transcendent star appeal? He's must-see TV even during warmups. Curry was MVP last season and was a far better player this season which probably factored into the reasoning of the voters, too.

Does Bob Cousy's MVP in 1957 not count as much because he couldn't beat Curry in a game of one-on-one? What about the consecutive MVPs in 2005 and '06 from Steve Nash? Because couldn't guard Kobe Bryant, those are bogus?

Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) finished second. Teammates Westbrook and Durant (Thunder) split their votes and were Nos. 4 and 5 in totals. 

Leonard's team won 67 games with him as their best player. In any other year, he would've warranted quite a few first-place votes but Curry made history. The vote is subjective and prone to the whims of 130 sportswriters and broadcasters in the U.S. and Canada and one unified vote via fans online.

Maybe this is a sign that voting, which is now made public by the NBA, moving in the right direction. Think of all those private ballots in other sports when legendary talents don’t get voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously because of some ridiculous “code.” Or what about NBA All-Star voting by fans and then coaches that excluded Lillard (Blazers) this year?

Was the NBA "watered down" when Shaquille O'Neal was denied by one anonymous voter in 2000 from being unanimous, getting 120 of 121 first-place votes? James was hands down the MVP in 2013 and he didn't get one of the 121 first-place votes (shout out to my guy Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe for choosing Carmelo Anthony instead). Was that an indication of a "watered down" league just three years ago?

To recap using McGrady's train of reasoning: Because O'Neal didn't get all 121 first-place votes during McGrady's era, this is proof that the league was better 16 years ago? That's what he's actually saying. 

There was no other choice above Curry that could be justified even by an outlier, though Harden (Rockets) getting on any ballots (two) after a 41-41 season ranges anywhere from comical to criminal.

The process never will be perfect. The Players Association had its first awards handed out last summer when Harden, worthy consideration at the time, was chosen over Curry and called by some "the real MVP." The suggestion was an absolute joke then as Curry was derided as a "system" player -- whatever in the hell that means -- but it’s doubtful that happens again given how the defensive no-show fared with Houston this season while the actual MVP took his game to another level.

If it's a competitive year for MVP votes there won’t be unanimous choices, but every now and then there will be exceptions. So what that in 1975 Bob McAdoo became MVP with just 81 of 193 votes (42%). How many of the voters actually saw him play with the Buffalo Braves often enough to make that judgment? There were no cable TV sports packages, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, mobile devices and tablets to watch NBA League Pass or an NBA YouTube channel to come to that conclusion.

The evidence is in your face and undeniable. But today's results should be confined to 2015-16 alone and not some historical debate about Jordan or predictable slights about the process that only serve to discredit Curry similar to those comparing his Warriors to the '96 Bulls.

Different eras. Different rules. Two completely different topics. Two completely different players. 

The only reason this vote was a no-contest is that Curry was so dominant, he made it so. 

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making plays and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.





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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.





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