Klay Thompson's defense admirable, but Warriors need buckets vs. Lakers
Klay's defense is fine, but Warriors need buckets vs. Lakers originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – After the Warriors’ Game 7 victory over the Sacramento Kings, coach Steve Kerr took a moment to praise Klay Thompson’s defense. It was a cute maneuver, the veteran coach attempting to obscure the obvious eyesore.
That would be Thompson’s offense. He took 19 shots and missed 15. Took 10 3-pointers, missing eight, some basic bricks. He was startlingly inaccurate.
“Disgusting,” was Thompson’s candid description of his shooting.
If it’s disgusting in the Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers, with Game 1 set for Tuesday night at Chase Center, the Warriors will be on vacation by Mother’s Day.
If Thompson looks more like he has throughout his career, it dramatically increases the chance of Golden State reaching the conference finals.
Thompson, 33, long has been one of the NBA’s true marksmen. Buckets are his specialty, particularly 3-pointers, his ticket to the Hall of Fame. He owns the single-game record (14), is the only player with multiple games with at least 12 in one season and was the only player to surpass 300 makes in the regular season. He’s a 41.6-percent shooter from deep for his career, 40.6 percent in the NBA playoffs.
In seven games against the Kings, Klay shot 35.6 percent (26 of 73) from distance. He was a typical 22 of 54 (40.7 percent) in the first five games before falling off to a ghastly 4 of 19 (21.1 percent) in Games 6 and 7.
The numbers are relevant because the Lakers present an entirely different challenge than the Kings. The Warriors got past Sacramento despite substandard 32.8-percent shooting beyond the arc because they were splashing at 55.6 percent against a soft middle anchored by Domantas Sabonis.
Next up: Anthony Davis, with Jarred Vanderbilt on his flank. Defenders supreme, so 3-balls become considerably more precious. The work of Stephen Curry and Thompson can, probably will, determine the arc of this series.
“The Lakers’ interior defense is really tough to attack, especially when Davis is in there,” Kerr acknowledged Monday. “He patrols that paint well and protects the basket. We’ve got to do a good job of executing offensively and create good looks. I’m confident we’ll knock them down.”
Curry shot 37.8 percent from deep against the Kings and will need a slight increase against LA. Andrew Wiggins shot 27.0 percent and will need to get into the mid-to-high 30s. Jordan Poole shot 25.7 percent (worst on the team among those with at least 10 attempts) and will need an appreciable bump.
“I think we’ll shoot the ball better this series,” said Kerr, pointing out Sacramento’s commitment to pressuring shots beyond the arc.
All four of Golden State’s designated shooters are capable, but Curry and Thompson live in their own stratosphere. They are the best bets on the team – and in the league – to bury an opponent under an avalanche of triples.
Know this: Thompson’s gut is tingling. He wants to bring his best against the team for which he rooted during his teenage years. His father, Mychal, retired as a Laker and is the color analyst on the team’s radio broadcasts. Playing in LA always holds a special allure.
“I know I'm personally excited," Thompson said after Game 7 in Sacramento. “I get to play in front of my father, my mother, some of my best friends and go down to SoCal after our homestand and it's just a dream come true. I've waited for this for 12 years.”
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A prudent Thompson, taking great shots, can light up the Lakers and turn up Chase Center. It would surprise no one if there were a “Klay Game,” maybe two, during the series. We all know the definition because we’ve all seen them.
Shots splashing through from all angles of the arc. Some with his impeccable form, others off balance, some thrown up haste, others finding the bottom of the net as if guided by an unseen force. Klay Games find the history books.
Good defense from Thompson at this stage of his career is, after enduring serious surgery on each leg, a welcome bonus.
Buckets, however, are his profession.
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