The building was electric when Klay Thompson’s name was announced. The much-anticipated return of the Splash Brothers was a big event, considering that the play-by-play team shared that Thompson hadn’t played an NBA game in 941 days.
The moment was big enough that an injured Draymond Green started the game just to be part of Klay’s return, and took part in the tip off. He left right away after fouling intentionally. That goes to show how important Thompson is to his long-time teammates.
Thompson scored the Warriors’ first bucket with a driving floater that saw him show off some hang time. That, of course, sent the fans into raptures.
He didn’t play too long in the first quarter but came back late in the second quarter. Thompson couldn’t make a three in the first period but showed his athleticism again after jamming down a monster dunk after losing his defender with a crossover. That dunk made everyone in the building lose their minds.
He finally hit his first three with a little over a minute left in the first half. He even showed flashes of his old defense as he picked up his third foul of the game with five seconds left in the first half. It looked like a ticky tack foul that got the crowd fired up and yelling “Ref you suck!”
Thompson started to look a lot more comfortable in the second half, making his first three shots to help create a double-digit lead for the Dubs. He entered the game again with a little over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, with Golden State already holding a huge lead.
He finished the game with 17 points on 7 of 18 shooting from the field and 3 of 8 from three in 20 minutes played. It was enough of a contribution to make Dubs fans happy and opposing teams nervous.
Steph Curry was clearly inspired by the return of his running mate, too. He started the game making 4 straight threes. He had 18 first half points and led all scorers with 28 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists while making 10 of 21 shots and 4 of 11 triples.
Thompson’s mere presence on the court opened things up for the rest of the Dubs, which is great news for Curry, who’s been getting banged up with impunity this season because of all the double and triple-teams that he’s faced. If Thompson continues to get better as the season chugs along, those coverages will disappear because opponents simply can’t leave Thompson open.
One thing to look out for is how the Warriors will find shots for Curry, Thompson, Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins. It may prove to be great for Poole and Wiggins, as they’ll have less pressure to force the offense and play within their strengths.
Kevon Looney, Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica and other role players may need to be content with more limited roles on offense. However, veterans like Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green will be able to provide good examples of how to make the most out of limited touches, especially through play along and defense. People like Gary Payton II are already figuring this out.
Looney looked great in the game, focused on what he does best. He set a career high in rebounds with 18 for the game.
Thompson’s return doesn’t instantly change the Warriors, as he’ll still be getting back into shape and re-integrating into the offensive and defensive systems. However, it is clear that Golden State are a better team with him on the floor. He was also clearly happy to just be back to playing the game that he loves.
In case anyone’s forgotten what Klay’s capable of when he’s at his best, here’s a clip of him eviscerating my beloved Sacramento Kings.