Klay Thompson distills his game to its essence, lifts Warriors past Rockets

Klay keeps it simple, helps Warriors shoot past Rockets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – Simplicity suits Klay Thompson as well as perhaps any player in NBA history. When he dials into his area of expertise, deep shooting, he’s a stone-cold marksman capable of burning a defense to ash.

Thompson was magnificently simple Friday night at Chase Center, shepherding the Warriors to a 116-101 romp over the Houston Rockets with one of the most efficient games of a career that spans 11 years and nine seasons.

The victory featured 26 3-pointers – one off the franchise record – and 12 of them belonged to Thompson. His game-high 42 points came on 12-of-19 shooting from the field, including 12-of-17 from deep.

Those shot-attempt totals are particularly significant, as they illustrate Thompson’s devotion to simplicity in this game. He largely abandoned firing inside the arc, focusing on his 3-pointer (15 of his first 16 shots) and riding it to glory.

“It’s Klay,” cracked Steve Kerr, not surprised by the ratio.

“That’s what he does,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “He’s a shooter, one of the best shooters of all time.”

Inasmuch as three is always better than two, firing the 3-pointer, particularly when they’re as open as the Rockets’ defense allows, is a wise choice.

But there is more to it than that. This was Thompson’s 17th game this season in which his 3-point shooting percentage was higher than his 2-point percentage. His shooting inside the arc is, over the past couple of months, only less than 3 percent better than his deep shooting.

“I’m aware of it because I take my job seriously,” Thompson said. “But it doesn’t make or break me. I always want to be a high-volume but efficient scorer – who doesn’t? – but I would like to improve my 2-point percentage.

"That would be nice. Above 50 would be ideal, so I still have room to grow.”

The 3-ball is, however, where Thompson’s money is made as he holds the record for most triples in a game (14), in a quarter (nine). He won the 2016 3-point shooting contest at All-Star Weekend.

On this night, he joined teammate Steph Curry as the only players with eight or more seasons with at least 200 triples in NBA history.

Shooting 70.6 from deep on 17 shots is astonishing in any game, but Thompson’s timing was impeccable. The Warriors were coming off a dismal loss Thursday and were without Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Curry.

If the Warriors were to find their way to a feel-good win that would put them back at .500 (30-30), Thompson practically had to be great.

“Just getting good looks from beyond the perimeter,” the Warriors star said. “I got a lot of great looks off pin-downs and split-cuts and a couple when I dribbled into 3s. It was just one of those nights when I had the hot hand. It felt great.”

The last three words are meaningful, mostly because Thompson was playing on back-to-back nights for only the second time since returning to the team in January 2021. He played 27 minutes Thursday night, and almost 36 Friday.

“He was brilliant tonight,” Kerr said. “It’s so great to see him now at the point where he can do this. This was his second back-to-back . . . he looked great out there, not only the shooting but his rebounding was a factor. His defense and playing 35 minutes on the second night of back-to-back, that’s big time.”

Thompson, who turned 33 this month, distilled his game to its essence. For him, the fewer dribbles the better, though he did step into one 3-pointer off the dribble on the right wing. The less dancing, the better. Catch and shoot. That is, for him, the happiest and most successful approach.

Asked if he felt he was back to the Thompson of old, before the torn ACL (June 2019) and ruptured Achilles tendon (November 2020), Thompson deflected.

RELATED: What we learned as Klay drains 12 3s in win over Rockets

“I don’t like to talk about vintage me or my old self,” he said. “I just think I’m being myself, and I was capable of these things in the past.

“As long as my wrists still work and my feet work, I’ll forever be able to shoot the rock.”

In a time of sports debate, that’s one that seems beyond dispute. Shooters, after all, can shoot long after they leave the NBA.

Download and follow the Dubs Talk Podcast