Klay Thompson breaking out should coincide with Warriors turnaround

Struggling Warriors will turn things around as Klay heats up originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – There will be nights, such as Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals, when the Warriors are carried by Stephen Curry.

There will be nights, such as Game 6 of those same Finals, when Draymond Green sets a defensive tone his teammates adhere to, practically ensuring victory.

And there have been numerous occasions over the course of many seasons when Curry and Green are barely visible beneath fireworks displays manufactured by Klay Thompson.

That has been Klay’s history. And now, as he and the Warriors seek solutions in the wake of a disastrous road trip, they are about to discover if it is his future.

“We know we had a long run last year, but 2022 is over,” Thompson said Sunday after practice at Chase Center. “It’s time to kick it into gear and play the championship-level basketball we’re used to. And I fully expect us to do that tomorrow.”

Returning home after their worst road trip (0-5) under coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors take a five-game losing streak and a 3-7 record into their game Monday night against the Sacramento Kings.

There was not much to like during the trip, but one welcome sight was Thompson’s performance, particularly in the first half, last Thursday against the Orlando Magic. He scored 14 points in 14 minutes before halftime, shooting 5-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. He finished with a season-high 27 points on 10-of-24 shooting – but 7-of-15 beyond the arc.

Insofar as Klay shot 28.6 percent from deep over his first eight games, the seven triples on 46.7-percent shooting hit the Warriors, and their fans, like a ray of sunlight.

“I was in a great rhythm,” Thompson recalled. “The shots I took were great ones. When I re-watched the film, I might have taken two bad (shots). As long as I’m getting great looks, I’m confident that they will fall at a high rate – whenever that is.”

The performance against the Magic suggests the time is near. When Klay’s shooting gets into a flow, it can become the kind of spectacle that energizes the home crowd and inspires his teammates. It adds a dimension to Golden State’s offense that makes it exceedingly difficult to defend.

No one understands this more than Curry, who has been feeding his longtime backcourt buddy in hopes of nudging him out of the slump that nagged him for the first two weeks of the season.

There was yet another significant development for Klay in Orlando. He played a season-high 34 minutes, indicating that the minutes restriction imposed by the team at the start of the season is a thing of the past.

That makes it easier for Thompson to get into a rhythm and, moreover, it provides more flexibility as Kerr juggles the team’s playing rotations. A full-time Klay means he can spend more time with the second unit, which generally has been mediocre if not outright ineffective.

This gives the Warriors an opportunity to see if the pairing of Jordan Poole and Thompson – who have yet to click because both have had their struggles – can find the cohesion necessary to terrorize defenses during the 12-14 minutes Curry spends on the bench.

Kerr’s postgame comments Friday night after the loss to the Pelicans made it clear that he wants Poole to do less dribbling and more passing. Having Klay, one of the best spot-up shooters in NBA history, is a blessing for a ball-handler who sees the floor and passes as well as JP.

There is no one-man panacea for these Warriors. But a more efficient Thompson, getting his footing 10 games into the season, would provide a massive boost.

"Individually, I need to shoot the ball better and be more efficient with my minutes – and I plan to,” Thompson said. “I always feel like I’m due for a big game, so that would help a lot.”

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Though Curry and Green are the touchstones, twin engines that powered the Warriors to four championships in eight seasons, an efficient Thompson provides a turbocharge.

One encouraging game against a weak opponent does not always make a hot streak, but history reveals there have been many times when that’s all Klay needed. This week should tell us if this is one of those times.

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