Klay Thompson missed the Warriors’ last game, but he returned Tuesday night against the Dallas Mavericks — as a point guard.
Thompson had 15 points, but more impressively dished out a season-high, six assists and catapulted the Warriors (35-13) to a 130-92 dismantling of the Mavericks (27-21).
He was originally listed as questionable for the game, as his surgically-repaired knee had been experiencing soreness and swelling recently.
No ill effects were detectable though, as Thompson came out looking comfortable and under control.
Steve Kerr said it was a patented Thompson game in his mind:
Klay just playing a Klay Thompson game. Just clean, moving the ball, taking the open shots, not forcing anything… He’s such a good shooter people have to honor him out beyond the 3-point line, he can attack that closeout and with the floor spaced and him finding people it just makes the game a lot easier.”
He hit three 3’s in a row during his first half stint and looked like he was going to go on one of his patented streaks. And he may have, but instead of raining 3’s he focused on raining down assists.
Thompson said after the game that he felt like he was trying to do too much in his first games back:
I’m such a competitor, sometimes I want to get it all back in one night, especially when you’re off for a couple years. But I’m at my best when I’m playing within the flow of the offense and letting the game come to me. I thought I had a very good game tonight, well balanced, six assists, that’s high my for myself. I just had a lot of fun out there.”
Steve Kerr and the coaching staff went with a different rotational approach with Thompson, as he played the first five minutes of each quarter, instead of playing the first and last five minutes of each half.
The change is focused on not having Thompson sit for such extended stretches and having to keep warm on a stationary bike:
We’re just trying to avoid having him not play for 45 minutes of actual time… I felt like there was a better rhythm to it… We’ll just try to do a better job of helping him find his rhythm by playing him in shorter spurts but with fewer long breaks.”
It seemed like it did get him into a rhythm. The old rotation seemed like it made Thompson press to get his shot going, as he was launching with reckless abandon every time he touched the rock.
But Tuesday was a different story. Thompson seemed to make it a point to get his teammates going, throwing dime after dime, including at least five separate behind-the-back passes.
He might have taken his cues from Stephen Curry though, as the Warriors star set up his teammates all night. Curry’s shooting struggles have been well documented at this point, and his frustration with his shot is evident.
Tuesday, he didn’t even bother attempting his usual amount of 3’s out the gate, he came out with a focus on the midrange, nailing four jumpers inside the arc in the first half.
When Curry wasn’t working inside the arc, he was dishing out seven assists and constantly playing the facilitator role.
Kerr joked after the game that he doesn’t want Curry shooting anymore 3’s:
That’s the plan, Steph is no longer a 3-point shooter, we’re going to really look to get the ball to him in the paint and turn him into a back to the basket player. He’s actually playing really well, the 3-point shot isn’t going in but…he’s doing everything for us. And it’s pretty encouraging we can have a game like that without Steph lighting it up from 3.”
He finished with 18 points, which again isn’t the usual Curry output, but the difference was as the dedicated facilitator, his teammates got a ton of easy looks.
It was about as balanced of scoring as you could ask for as seven different Warriors reach double-figures.
While he didn’t lead the team in scoring, Jordan Poole’s 17 points were some of the most needed, not just for the team, but also himself.
Poole has been having a rough time adjusting to his bench role with Thompson in the starting lineup, putting up single-digit scoring in three of his last four games off the bench.
He’s noticeably less aggressive as a backup, and seemed like he was in for another quiet night Tuesday as he didn’t even attempt a shot in the first quarter.
An And-1 jumper got him going in the second though, and it looked like it flipped a switch for him as he turned into the confident scorer he’s been as a starter after that.
But the player that led the Warriors in scoring was none other than rookie Jonathan Kuminga who put up 22 points in just 18 minutes, shooting 8-of-9 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from 3.
He capped his night off with this nasty dunk.
It was a perfect glimpse into the Warriors future as the young guys provided some much-needed additional firepower to Curry and Thompson.
The whole team looked like threats on offense, and it’s the most dangerous the Warriors have looked since Draymond Green went down.
The Warriors are finally staring down the light at the end of the tunnel for this long stretch of home games. They’ll take on the Minnesota Timberwolves (24-23) Thursday in the penultimate game of this homestand.
For as much as their offense was clicking, the only Warrior with a double-double ended up being Nemanja Bjelica with 10 points and 10 boards. It’s the second double-double for the backup big on the season, with his only other one coming opening night against the Lakers.