After a slow start to this season, Klay Thompson averaged 27 points per game in January — the highest scoring month of his career.
He proved he can still score at an elite rate consistently. Against the Thunder in the Chase Center, he proved he can still tap into another gear. A historically great, Hall of Fame lock, immortal gear.
Thompson, at age 34 and having undergone major surgeries on both his ACL and Achilles that sidelined him for over two seasons, legitimately threatened to break his own record for 3-pointers made in a single game.
When the Warriors subbed Thompson out with 4:41 left, they’d built a 23-point thanks to the shooting guard’s 12 3-pointers — two shy of the record he set in 2018.
Thompson’s flamethrower began right after tipoff and never shut off, leading to an electric 42-point performance. The guard, in the team’s first game without his Splash Brother Stephen Curry (knee), went 15-for-22 from the field and 12-for-16 from deep.
Thompson’s performance, plus a well-rounded Jordan Poole game, pushed the Warriors (28-26) to a blowout 141-114 win over the Thunder. The victory is a strong start to a pivotal stretch of games without Curry.
Here are three takeaways from GSW’s win.
Of all the most eye-catching heat-check guys to touch a basketball, Klay Thompson is among the most fun. When he’s in that mode — that pep-in-his-step, jaw-snarling, trash-talking energy — he’s electric.
From the tip, he had the energy. He missed his first field goal attempt, then hit seven straight. After his sixth, everyone in the building knew he’d take another. Sure enough, he curled tight around a screen at the top of the key, caught and fired in one motion, fading to his right as the ball dropped in. The ball might’ve been in his hands for half a second.
He shot again on Golden State’s next possession, of course he did, but finally broke his streak. After the first quarter, Thompson had 18 points. No other Warrior scored more than two.
Thompson sat for the first few minutes of the second quarter, taking the Steph Curry rotation pattern, then drilled two more 3-pointers.
Then as the shot clock wound down on GSW’s last possession of the half, on a possession doomed for failure, Thompson bailed the Warriors out with an absurd step-back.
With 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting overall, Thompson egged on the Chase Center crowd as he walked into the locker room tunnel. He was halfway to his all-time single game record for 3s. He also represented nearly half of Golden State’s points after 24 minutes (60).
And he certainly wasn’t done. The Warriors opened the second half with a set play for Thompson, which worked to perfection. No. 8. Moments later, a defender flew past his pump fake and he sank another 3. Nine.
The Thunder completely sold out to stop Thompson after that, sending two defenders at him every time he caught a pass. That opened the floor for the rest of the Warriors, allowing them to win the third quarter 44-26.
And then in the fourth quarter, once the game opened up and Golden State initiated fast breaks, Thompson connected on two more — one from the right wing and another from the corner. Nos. 10 and 11.
Even when it looked like Thompson didn’t get a clean release off, he hit another tightly contested 3 — his 12th and final 3 before being subbed out.
On the back of Thompson, the Warriors built a lead so large, he could rest his legs.
Jordan Poole making the right plays
Jordan Poole’s role with Curry sidelined will change. He’ll be more on the ball. He’ll initiate more offense. He’ll need to cut down on ill-advised shots and get the team into their sets.
Poole isn’t a pure point guard (although, neither is Curry). In his young career, he’s been most dangerous as a score-first combo guard. That job description might not come naturally to him.
But he’s talented enough to deliver, and to toggle between responsibilities as the situation dictates.
Poole dished out nine assists before committing a turnover. Quick decisions, extra passes, avoid overdribbling. Just what the doctor ordered.
When Thompson, the hot hand, sat, Poole sensed it and became more aggressive in looking for his shot. Late in the third quarter, right after Thompson hit the bench to rest, his step-back 3 gave GSW a 93-71 lead.
Poole’s shot didn’t fall early, but calibrated in the second half. He didn’t need to force things to find his rhythm, either. He was always in control.
His career-high 12th assist arrived on time and on target to Thompson in the corner for the Splash Bro’s 11th 3-pointer.
Internet doctors are BACK
Stephen Curry’s knee injury is confounding. While every athlete, and every injury, is different, the specific damage to Curry’s knee appears as uncommon as any NBA injury in recent memory. According to In Street Clothes, the closest comparison may be a similar collsion that knocked Boston’s Marcus Smart out for 37 days in 2015.
What’s known about Curry’s injury?
- It seems very, very painful.
- There’s probably not long-term structural damage that would require surgery.
- There’s no timetable for his return, but he’ll likely be sidelined for multiple weeks.
But this is Stephen Curry we’re talking about. You don’t want the Sparknotes version. You want all the technical details you can get your hands on.
Enter: Twitter MD.
Tibias! Fibias! Membrane!
The current stretch without Curry may define the Warriors’ 2022-23 season, and possibly the dwindling months of a dynasty.
Curry missed 11 straight games earlier this year with a shoulder subluxation. The Warriors went 6-5 in his absence — on par with their season record.
Without Curry indefinitely, Jordan Poole’s minutes and time on the ball initiating offense will increase. Andrew Wiggins, who has struggled since returning from the longest absence of his career, will need to produce more offensively. Ty Jerome will get more opportunities running point, and the team may need to run more sets for Jonathan Kuminga.
Head coach Steve Kerr said if they play with pace and move the ball, the Warriors should be fine. As long as Curry’s injury doesn’t knock him out for longer than the armchair doctors think, “fine” should be enough to keep Golden State in the playoff hunt.
“We’ve already been through a stretch without Steph, and we handled it pretty well,” Steve Kerr said pregame. “So we’re confident we can do that again.