If you were one of the people worrying whether Klay Thompson, after more than two calendar years away from NBA basketball with a torn ACL and ruptured Achilles tendon, would ever return to his pre-injury form, you can rest easy. He’s not all the way back, but he’s clearly the same old sniper who is just about done shaking off the rust.
Thompson went for 33 points in Golden State’s 105-103 victory over the Lakers on Saturday, his first 30-point game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals when he tore his ACL. Thompson made 5 of 9 from 3 and 10 of 22 shots overall, and 16 of his points from him came in an electric fourth quarter.
Thompson has the quick trigger going again, pulling from different angles, on the move, catching eye-level passes and never even bringing the ball down, just letting it fly all in one motion. Over his last four games, he’s 18 for 35 from 3. The old Klay is coming. He might be here already.
Thompson missed a potential game-tying 15-footer at the buzzer in Golden State’s loss to the Knicks on Thursday. Never mind the miss. The point was getting the shot in the first place. Since returning, we’ve seen a healthy diet of dribble creation from Thompson and pull-up mid-range jumpers. He doesn’t have an explosive first step and he doesn’t rise for his jumper with great athleticism; he just knows how to get to his spot from him, and he’s been patient with pump fakes and slight step-backs to clear space around the foul line.
Stephen Curry has also been doing more in the midrange of late. Curry’s relative 3-point struggles have been well chronicled this season, but whereas earlier he was forcing from beyond the arc, trying to plow his way through a career-worst stretch with tough, contested 3s, recently he’s gotten back to establishing an overall rhythm in the intermediate distances.
When he does that, suddenly he’s getting to the rim and finishing with more confidence. He’s getting into his bag more with his handle. He just looks like he’s back to playing frisky with the ball in his hands, with great pace, and it’s making it so his 3-point line does n’t completely dictate his night.
On Saturday, Curry made only one of his eight 3-pointers, but he shot 6 of 9 from inside the arc and played awesome. He controlled the whole flow. He got downhill and drew defenders. When he’s playing like that, the 3-point shots are going to fail. The misses look better already, more a matter of time than the completely out-of-rhythm clanks we were seeing in December and for most of January.
With Thompson bombing away and Curry clearly coming around, there’s a real buzz starting to surround this team again. They have played pretty good, and at times great, for most of the season, but even the great record didn’t feel like this team has felt since Klay returned, and it certainly hasn’t felt the way it felt Saturday night. They’ve won with defense and depth and a few flashes of the old Curry.
Every game, Thompson, whose minute restriction has been raised from 25 to 30 minutes, looks more and more like his old self. And the Warriors, by extension, are again starting to feel like an avalanche-in-waiting offense. They feel like a Show again. It’s just different when they start getting hot. No team can match their magnetism, their charisma, their electricity. They don’t play that way every night like they did in the pre-Durant days, but you can feel it around the corner. They’ve now won 10 of their last 12. They have the second-best record in the league at 42-15.
With the way Jonathan Kuminga is playing (this dude is an emerging monster), with Andrew Wiggins playing terrific two-way ball, with great depth, when Draymond Green eventually gets back, the Warriors are going to be one tough customer come playoff time.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism