BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The Warriors rejected the notion that Tuesday's game was anything more than another game. So did the Nets. This wasn't, they said, a possible NBA Finals preview.
But what they would agree on is it was a preview of two 2021-22 NBA MVP finalists.
"They've been the two best players in the league so far," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said one day before the highly anticipated matchup.
The Barclays Center crowd agreed, as it chanted "MVP" for both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
And deservedly so. The respective reigning Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week have been phenomenal. But as the game went on, the MVP chants dwindled for the Durant and bolstered for Curry.
That's what happens when Curry goes for 37 points on 12-of-19 shooting, including 9 of 14 on 3-pointers, and added seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block in 29 minutes in the Warriors' 117-99 win over the Nets.
"That was shocking," Green said of the chants Curry received in Barclays. "You got Kevin Durant having the type of season he's having, which he always has, but he's even better this year. And to not only have the MVP chants, but the chants, eruptions when he got the ball, that was different. But Steph is special like that, so I understand, I guess. But that was crazy."
As Green said, Durant is having one heck of a season. He's leading the NBA in scoring. He's been dominant for his team, which needs him, even more without Kyrie Irving, and his defense has remained sound.
But Curry has done the same, and after Tuesday's game, he shrunk Durant's league-leading scoring advantage to just 0.2 points.
Despite the depth the Warriors have on their team, they'd be lost without Curry. Their overarching success still rides on his shoulders.
The Warriors' entire system is built around him, and that system has never worked better than it is right now in recent years.
The Warriors are back to having one of the best offenses in the NBA -- third in the league, to be exact. And according to Kerr, Green and Andrew Wiggins, it's because of one thing: "Steph Curry."
"Steph, there's never been anyone like him," Kerr said after the game. "So he's an offense just by himself. ... It's a matter of putting smart people around him like Andre [Iguodala], like Draymond and many others who are going to take that defensive attention that Steph gets, and then play-make behind the play when Steph gets the ball.
"The fact that Steph can be dominant on and off the ball, that's what makes him like no one in the league. There's never been a player, as far as I'm concerned, who had that combination on both skill and pick-and-roll dominance but the off-ball game of Reggie Miller. That combination has never been seen."
Curry's performance featured his fifth game of the season with seven or more threes, and he has had three games in which he has scored at least 40 points.
Not only is Curry performing incredibly on offense, but his defense is shining through. Against the Nets, Curry had two steals and one block. On the season, he's averaging 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.
Curry, who finished third in NBA MVP voting a season ago, entered this campaign with the fifth-best MVP odds behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Durant, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic.
The knock against Curry then was he wasn't on a team that won enough to receive the honor. But with the Warriors atop the league with a 12-2 record, and Curry's assist, rebound and steal averages all up from last season, there aren't many excuses to say he's not in first place in the race.
And then there's his performance against Durant and the Nets. In the third quarter, Durant picked up Curry around half court. Every fan in the building stood up because they know that one-on-one matchup isn't to be missed. MVP-on-MVP.
Curry danced with Durant for a second, before bombing a 3-pointer, which swished through the basket with ease. Curry won that battle, and he won the night.
As the chants for Curry grew louder and louder throughout the game on Durant's home court, it was almost an audible representation of what's happening in the MVP standings: There's a clear front-runner, and it's No. 30.