SAN FRANCISCO – Draymond Green previously said it was not coincidental that the Warriors’ two-year hiatus from the playoffs came when Klay Thompson was out with back-to-back career-altering injuries.
Thompson’s fierce competitive spirit coupled with his immense talent as one of the best two-way players in the league was a key component to the Warriors’ success during their five straight trips to the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019.
When Thompson made his highly anticipated return in June after tearing his left ACL in 2019 and rupturing his right Achilles tendon in November 2020, there was skepticism as to whether he could regain elite form.
After 32 regular season games and 12 playoff performances, Green believes it’s time that Thompson gets his due.
“From where he’s come from January 9 to today is incredible. Being able to compete at this level and do it after what he’s gone through is amazing,” Green said Thursday after practice. “I’ve been seeing narratives like Klay’s been playing bad, and I actually leave the game like, ‘Man, he’s playing really good basketball.’ And so yeah, it really just goes to show me how people can only identify if you’re making or missing shots because the game he’s been playing on the floor and impact at winning has been the same Klay I’ve always been battled with in the playoffs.”
Thompson is shooting at a more efficient clip in the postseason than he was in the regular season. In 12 playoff games, he’s averaged 19.9 points on 45.6% shooting and has converted on 40.2% of his 3-point attempts while grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game.
His scoring has been streaky at times. He was scoreless in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night, a game the Warriors ultimately won due to a collaborative effort to slow Luka Dončić and balanced contributions from Golden State’s players on offense. But Thompson ended the game strong, going an effective 7-of-his-last-9 from the field, good for 15 points.
After the game, Thompson said he was proud he shot 53.8% overall in the Warriors’ win.
“I never feel good when I go home and I shoot inefficiently, I was very happy with my shooting performance tonight,” he said. “Didn’t have a field goal in the first half, but that will never discourage me. I will always hunt my shot.”
Thompson knew the scoring would come eventually, but he said he’s still trying to get back to the level he was defensively prior to his injuries. He took turns guarding Dončić with Andrew Wiggins and kept the Mavericks star scoreless when he was the primary defender, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Still, Thompson sees room to improve defensively.
“It’s hard,” Thompson said. “Marking the best player every night for 40 minutes is not easy, and going to get buckets on the other ends, but it’s something I love to do. All the best two guards to ever play the game played both sides of the ball, whether it was [Michael Jordan]Kobe [Bryant] and [Dwyane Wade], guys I really idolized as a kid. They all competed on that side, so I just tried to follow the same mold.”