OAKLAND, Calif. -- After win 60, teammates and coaches eagerly gobbled the red velvet cake commemorating their superstar's birth. The lifespan of an NBA career is short, and a birthday can be seen as a harbinger of doom. In the case of Stephen Curry, though, aging has suited him well. For all we know, another birthday marks a harbinger of doom for everyone else.
He has been so consistent with this level of performance that his birthday prompted more questions in the postgame media session. A birthday is an annual event, whereas a dominant Curry game is just a Monday in the NBA. And this particular 28th birthday intrigues because the Warriors themselves are confused by what it means. As Curry ages, will his game somehow improve? Are we seeing the best from Curry? Is this the peak, the plateau, or early in the ascent?
Right now, Curry is producing at an unfathomable rate, delivering a strong case for the best statistical individual season ever. Simply put, he's scoring at a Michael Jordan rate with far better efficiency. It's a development so unforeseen and so absurd that it's especially difficult to estimate its duration.
According to conventional wisdom, a player's prime is his late 20s. In theory, players only have a couple of years at this level. Then again, Curry's signature skill throws that into doubt, as shooting tends to extend careers. Frequent Curry comparison Steve Nash had his best seasons in his early 30s.
After the game, Curry faced the question of where he's headed, saying, "I'll never be satisfied with where I'm at. Where I'm at I'll always find different ways to improve. I guess I'm officially in my prime, but we'll see how far this thing can go."
This season is assumed to be his peak. Then again, many assumed we were seeing the best from Curry last season. "I thought he was as good as he was going to get last year," Warriors coach Steve Kerr confessed after the game.
Kerr was far from alone. Though Curry was the reigning MVP, NBA general managers in a poll pegged Curry as the fifth most likely recipient for this year's MVP honor. Pelicans head coach and former Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry must have assumed similarly. Upon leaving Curry's team to take the New Orleans job, Gentry said of Anthony Davis, "We've got the best player in the NBA not named LeBron James."
As Kerr said on Monday, "He won the MVP, and he's a lot better this year. I don't think people would argue with me on that. So, I don't know. Nothing would surprise me with Steph."
"Nothing would surprise me with Steph." You hear that and similar assessments from people around this organization. On whether this is the peak, Andrew Bogut appraised, "Most people would have said that last season, but from what we see from him on a daily basis, probably not. You just never know. He just gets better and better every offseason."
Golden State big man Marreese Speights, who has found his form since Kerr's return, said of his MVP teammate, "He don't got no limit to his success. He don't think he's at peak. Scary, but we'll see. Every day he's doing something amazing, shooting the ball from 100,000 feet."
In Monday's win, Curry deployed one of his less-heralded skills, something he has assiduously developed over recent offseasons: The shot that certainly isn't from 100,000 feet. Amid a cold shooting start, he compensated with slashes into the interior and crafty finishes around the rim to finish 6-of-7 in the paint.
Basketball players are defined by what they do best, to the exclusion of other skills. Nash's passing overshadowed his magnificent shooting. Jordan's scoring obscured his defense. In the case of Curry, his 3-point shooting overshadows his interior game.
On the season, Curry is shooting a hair under 58 percent on his 2-point shots, something that's mostly gone unnoticed due to his historic 3-point shooting. Of his proficiency in the paint, Curry said, "Just have the confidence being able to finish with either hand if I have the opportunity to. I'm not an above-the-rim guy, obviously, so I got to have creativity and a little feel."
Monday's early showcase of versatility preceded a ridiculous third-quarter stretch of 3-point shooting that included an off-the-dribble strike over the Pelicans' Davis, a moving corner 3 that might have set a land-speed record for quickest release and, for good measure, a banked-in triple.
Perhaps improvement means not banking that 3-pointer in next time. Then again, if Curry insisted he meant to use glass, who would doubt him? He keeps implausibly improving beyond a point anyone predicted.
Or, to use a sanguine Kerr's words, "Yeah, maybe he can get better. It'd be awesome."