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Nearly three years in the making, Klay comeback sparks Warriors to emotional win

Nine-hundred-and-forty-one days. It’s been a long and emotional journey for Klay Thompson to return to the court.

And after almost three calendar years, the date finally arrived Sunday night at Chase Center. The obvious questions loomed; how would he look?

How many minutes would he play?

What can be realistically expected of a man coming off a torn ACL and a torn Achilles?

Some of those questions remain, but Sunday was less about answering questions, or even the score of the actual game, it was just about watching Klay Thompson play basketball again.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors locker room at Chase Center.

Thompson reminisced on the whole night after the game:

I’ll never forget this night. I’ll never forget the reception the Warriors fans gave us especially myself. Gosh it was fun and it was worth every single day of being away… It was worth every single moment and I’m so grateful to just compete again… I’m not going to say equivalent to winning a championship, but man it’s pretty freaking close.

In true Thompson fashion he did not disappoint, giving the people what they wanted to see.

Thompson passed the ball maybe a handful of times throughout his 20 minutes of action, otherwise, when he touched the ball, a shot was going up.

He made the game’s first basket — a driving double-clutch floater — and didn’t stop attacking till the final buzzer.

Steve Kerr said the first play of the game wasn’t designed for Thompson, in fact it was specifically not drawn up for him because Kerr thought he’d be too amped up:

Well he wasn’t shy, was he? Not that we would ever expect Klay to be shy but I was amazed at his poise out there and his confidence after being out for so long. I drew the first play up not for him, but for him to catch it and move it on, I should have known better. He just caught it and drove and scored and it was a phenomenal moment.

He took 18 shots in total, and even that number seemed low if you were watching the action.

Thompson said even not shooting the ball well couldn’t put a damper on his mood:

It was a really tough floater and after that went in, I thought it was going to be one of those nights where I might be unconscious. But I missed a few shots after that, might have been some jitters. But I’m just so happy right now. I did not shoot as well as I wanted to but I’m just so happy I can look at the stat sheet and see my name there.

But that’s not surprising, it was expected, and even encouraged from his teammates and coaching staff. If Stephen Curry had his way, he probably would have been content to feed Thompson all night.

What was surprising though was his driving dunk over three Cavs.

Kevon Looney said that dunk is what he’ll remember the most from this game:

I’ll remember that dunk, the whole time here when Klay had perfect knees and Achilles, I don’t remember him dunking like that.

You could tell what Thompson’s return meant to the rest of the team.

They all showed up in No. 11 jerseys pregame and they gave him a special pregame intro and the closing spot in pregame introductions.

Chase was the loudest it has ever been during those intros and into the first five minutes of game action.

Curry said that moment was a culmination of everything Thompson has gone through the last two and a half years:

It was special… that was the moment he could celebrate that journey and go hoop. That moment delivered for sure, I got goosebumps on the other side of the court just watching.

Curry started out hitting his first four 3’s in the first quarter and busted out of his prolonged shooting slump, but he even seemed like he would rather be passing those shots off to Thompson than shooting them himself.

It’s fitting that the Warriors who led Golden State to a 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers were the ones who have been with Thompson the longest, Curry, Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala.

Curry led the team with 28 points, Looney had probably statistically the best game of his career with six points, 18 rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block, and Iguodala stuffed the stat sheet while playing a throwback defensive game.

The only one missing was Draymond Green, who started the game but immediately took a foul and was subbed out due to calf tightness.

There was no way he wasn’t going to be on the court with Thompson when he made his return.

But all that was superfluous, it was all about No. 11.

From the pregame, to the actual game, to postgame when the fans cheered Thompson leaving the court and going into the tunnel.

This truly was Klay Day — a holiday 941 days in the making.

Up Next

After the pageantry of Thompson’s return, the Warriors jet out for a four-game road trip that kicks off in Memphis Tuesday where a matchup with Ja Morant and the Grizzlies await them.

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