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Nit-Pick Extravaganza: What’s Up With Klay Thompson?

Mark Kreidler
May 16, 2017 - 1:18 pm
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Things I would rather watch than another replay of the Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia wrecking the NBA’s Western Conference Finals with his big fat foot:

  1. NFL Combine re-air
  2. “Chrisley Knows Best”
  3. Re-air of “Chrisley Knows Best” live from NFL Combine

In other words: I’m all caught up. Zaza absolutely knew what he was doing in Game 1, and he took an extra step and slid his foot underneath Kawhi Leonard’s landing zone specifically in order to cause Leonard to look down when he was shooting and get distracted. Instead, Leonard shot as he normally would, with full concentration on his follow-through, and then he came down and landed on the foot Pachulia had planted right below him. Ankle blown.

So now the Spurs don’t have their best scorer, best 3-point shooter, best defender and best 3-point defender, as they try to stave off Golden State’s 17 MVP candidates. Other than that, awesome matchup.

Still, there is something in this series well worth following.  Assuming the Warriors are going to meet full-strength Cleveland for the third consecutive year in the NBA Finals, can they beat the Cavs if Klay Thompson continues to play the way he’s playing?

It’s merely a sub-plot, I’ll grant you – I mean, the Warriors won 73 games last season and added Kevin Durant – but bear with me. Thompson nearly kept the Spurs in Game 1 by himself, going 2-for-11 from the floor and committing a couple of late-situation gaffes that were genuinely head-scratching.

More broadly, Thompson is shooting below 39 percent from the floor in this post-season.  A guy who averaged 22.3 points on 47 percent during the regular season has gone cold, averaging 15 a game, and drained only 36 percent of his three-pointers (18 of 50) in the first nine playoff games of 2017.

Result: The Warriors were 9-0 (with a Game 2 date with San Antonio on Tuesday).  So yes, it’s possible that they’re just so stacked with talent they’ll never miss a beat, no matter which particular Golden State player is sucking wind that day.

But as the competition improves, so must Thompson.  And although assistant coach Mike Brown said Monday, “The shooting is going to come,” the Warriors are still waiting to see it.

Instead, they praise Thompson’s defense, and rightly so – he harassed the Spurs’ Patty Mills into 1-for-8 shooting in Game 1, and Mills will be ever so critical going forward, with both Leonard and Tony Parker out.

But defense by Thompson has always been assumed – it travels with him during good offensive times and bad.  His offense, on the other hand, confirms Thompson as an almost classic streak-shooter.  If the Warriors are going to make a championship move, that streak needs to start heading in the right direction. And all of that makes wondering about Thompson infinitely more interesting than revisiting Zaza Pachulia’s latest dance moves.

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