Stephen Curry claims second scoring title as Warriors clinch No. 8 seed; Steve Kerr says 'He's never been better'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is the NBA's scoring king for the 2020-21 season.

The two-time MVP scored 46 points in 40 minutes Sunday in a 113-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, a performance that not only locked up the season scoring crown over Washington Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal, but also helped Golden State clinch the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. It sets the Warriors up for a Wednesday road game against LeBron James -- who made his pick for Curry as league MVP known Sunday night -- and the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a season full of unbelievable memories, Curry's latest act came as no surprise to his teammates and coaches.

"He's never been better, I can say that," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said when asked if this was the best season of Curry's illustrious 12-year career. "He's been great for a long time, though, so it's hard to say he's at his best now because he's been like this for years. I think what's different this year is just the supporting cast is different. We've got a much younger team; he's been asked to do a lot more with this group and he's gone above and beyond what we've asked of him.

"Just an incredible season and I'll just leave it at that. He's never been better than he is right now."

After missing all but five games last season because of a broken hand, Curry ends this season averaging 32 points per game. His previous career best of 30.1 points per game came in 2015-16, when he also became the first unanimous MVP in league history and won his other scoring title.

After Beal scored 25 points Sunday in Washington's 115-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets to finish with a season average of 31.3 points per game, Curry needed only three points to take the scoring crown, which he accomplished with a pair of field goals, including the clincher with 3:24 to play in the first.

"I've been blessed to be back healthy and be able to just play night in, night out at a high level," Curry said. "And the work that goes into it, it pays off, and it's something that I really, really rely on, especially at this point in my career. As the years go on, that is the difference-maker for me. Nobody really sees it on a day-to-day (basis), but I'm really proud of what I put into it, and the team -- they know who they are -- that help me and push me and motivate me. I'm going to keep doing that until I can't anymore."

Curry attempted a career-high 36 shots, including a career-high 22 3-pointers, en route to Sunday's output. He ends the regular season with 11 40-point games, just one shy of Michael Jordan's record for the most by any player in his 12th season or later. Jordan accomplished the feat during an 82-game season, while Curry's efforts came during a shortened 72-game season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At 33, Curry becomes the oldest scoring champion since Jordan led the league with 28.7 points per game in 1997-98 at age 35. Curry also joins Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players with multiple scoring titles, MVPs and championships, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"I appreciate that guy and what he's doing for the game," Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson said. "What he's doing for me and what he's doing for the Bay [Area]. I grew up a Warriors fan. We sucked for years. Everybody wants to watch the Warriors now. Everybody wants to come to Warriors games. The price of admission is well worth it."

Curry, who was showered with "MVP" chants during Sunday's game, has played arguably his best regular season during this condensed campaign. He averaged 37.3 points per game during 15 April contests -- a stretch that left even his teammates and coaches in awe.

"It's great playing with Steph," Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins said. "Sometimes you just catch yourself just watching, staring at the greatness with stuff he does on the court that's so special. All the attention he commands on and off the ball -- so it's been great playing with him."

With the contest serving as a de facto playoff game, Kerr played Curry 40 minutes -- one of his highest minute totals of the season. After the game, Kerr acknowledged that playing Curry that much is "an option now" as the Warriors begin the play-in tournament on Wednesday.

"In the regular season it's not an option -- as I made clear at midseason, somewhat controversially," Kerr said. "But we're in the thick of it and every game is crucial, but that's about the limit. I would hesitate to play him much more than that. He has so much on his shoulders and that's not easy playing for 40 minutes the way he plays."

The way Curry played on Sunday was a reminder of the way he has played all season. He carried his team to a victory and did so while having fun in the process. After a late 3-pointer with 1:35 left in regulation that sealed the victory, Curry celebrated by lifting his shirt up much the same way Baron Davis did after the former Warriors guard dunked on Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko during the 2007 playoffs.

"Shout out to Baron Davis," Curry said. "I definitely channeled my Kirilenko moment. I ain't dunk on nobody, but I wanted to channel the same celebration, so shout out to BD."