Klay’s fullest set is a good sign for Dubs’ road trip originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – For three full days and nights, Klay Thompson lived with his very public blunder in Utah, which stole the win at Warriors. He owned it. I relived it. Hungry for redemption and knowing when and how to get it.
Saturday evening, on national TV, against the looting Boston Celtics.
If Thompson could somehow drag the Warriors into a tailspin past the hottest team in the NBA, he could breathe free and embrace the night.
Those moments of self-reflection led directly to Thompson’s most complete performance in over three years, as before two major injuries, it was reasonable to wonder if he would be as complete again.
Thompson’s 34 points were welcome but not surprising. His defence, which anchored a 123-107 victory which stands as Golden State’s most impressive of the season, was a blast from the past.
“Of course”, longtime backcourt partner Stephen Curry said. “I know he was fired up after the way the game went in Utah, moving on and taking on the challenge. He started on (Celtics forward Jayson) Tatum to start the game, try to make it difficult for him. He made plays on both sides.
“I think offensively the game was connected. When you’re locked in defensively you worry about things that impact the flow of the game and your game and your challenge there and usually you’re rewarded with looks and good pace and flow on offense and that’s pretty much make shots. And we know he can do it. So it was great to see everything connect on both sides for him and for our team.
Harassment of Tatum by Thompson – an MVP candidate – swung the game to the Warriors. Tatum scored 18 points, shooting 28.6% (6 of 21) from the field, including 22.2% (2 of 9) from range.
Which is in stark contrast to Tatum’s first 25 games this season, in which he averaged 30.5 points, on 48.0 percent shooting, 36.5 from beyond the arc.
“We just tried to make it as difficult as possible,” coach Steve Kerr said. “(Tatum) is such a great player and I think we shut him down pretty well. He got nine 3-pointers, but a lot of them weren’t on the dribble and felt like half of it. “Them were off the dribble and those are a lot harder for everyone, no matter who you are. We just tried to stay active and stay in front of them and disturb him as best we could.
Draymond Green launched in the defense of Tatum, as did Jonathan Kuminga. But that was Klay’s main mission, and he needed it. He was so happy with his work and the result that he went through his post-match press conference pretty quickly while folding the stat sheet into a paper airplane.
It’s conceivable that Thompson proved something he might have doubted.
“I cherish being able to play there in defense and compete more than ever before,” he said. “When you’re up against the best, your game usually reflects that and you’re trying to rise to the level of the competition.”
Thompson set the tone early, 82 seconds after the whistleblower, when he pinned an attempted layup from Tatum on the backboard, delighting the sold-out crowd (18,064) at Chase Center.
“It was really good to pin someone from the backboard; I haven’t done it for I think four years,” he said. “That was probably my favorite moment for me tonight.
“It wasn’t just me. I had a lot of help and Jayson missed a lot of the shots he usually does. It was a collective effort, but I thought my energy was great to start the game.
Thompson’s defense, especially with Andre Wiggins (right adductor tightness) indefinitely, was so impressive that it allows the Warriors to put some belief behind their faith in how far this season can go.
If Thompson can defend at the elite level when needed, that facet of the game, which the Warriors have missed out on this season, has a chance to recover.
And if defense becomes an asset, it’s entirely possible that Golden State could break out of mediocrity and make another trip to the NBA Finals.
“Klay was awesome,” Kerr said. “He’s a great defender and he’s strong. That’s probably his best attribute, it’s just his size and his ability to stand up to an athlete, a player like Tatum, who is tall and strong and athletic. Then it was just because you had Loon (Kevon Looney) and Draymond (Green) behind the game, and they are our best rotators and communicators. Clay did a great job.
So much for Thompson’s failed defensive mission against the Jazz. The haunting is lifted. It’s from the past.
“It was a terrible experience,” Thompson said. “To sort of respond like we did, it felt good. We were able to knock that one out in Salt Lake after that crash, so it’s always nice to respond with a great performance and we did that tonight.
Now comes another question the Warriors can’t answer until next week: can they take this formidable defense on the road, where they’ve lost 11 of 13 games?
If Thompson can play with that degree of focus and ferocity, and do it consistently, finding wins on the road is quite likely.