Klay adds to Warriors legacy with historic game vs. OKC originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – Like Usain Bolt blasting out of the blocks in the Olympics or Tiger Woods, in his prime, smoking the field in a major, Klay Thompson in a “zone” on the basketball court is a spellbinding sight to behold.
And there it was, out of nowhere, Monday night at Chase Center, Thompson raining jump shots and reducing much of the anxiety that comes with the knowledge that the Warriors, for an indefinite period, will be without team catalyst Stephen Curry.
Though Thompson finished with a game-high 42 points, it was the 18 he put up in the first quarter that incited the sellout crowd (18,064), awakened his teammates, and ignited a 141-114 victory over an Oklahoma City Thunder squad that despite its pluck had no answer for his relentless assault.
So devastating was Klay’s work that the Warriors, who trailed by six after one quarter, were leading by seven at the half and by 25 after three quarters.
“We feed off Klay all the time,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But in particular, on a night like tonight, when we’re down early and giving up a lot of points. OKC really came out and hit us in the mouth right away; 9-2 (lead) right out the gate. And you could tell they were playing with a lot of energy and pace.
“Klay just kept us in it early with his shot-making and allowed us to kind of find our groove.”
Thompson’s first 33 points required only 19 minutes – 18 in the first half and the first 67 seconds of the second. Less than two minutes into the third quarter, he was 12-of-16 from the field, including 9-of-11 from beyond the arc.
He kept going, just because he could, draining three more triples in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 42 points, on 15-of-22 shooting, including 12-of-16 from deep. His standing ovation was richly deserved.
“I was just hunting great shots,” Thompson said. “I got a couple great looks early, and I thought they were all in rhythm. I maybe took two bad shots tonight, so it was a great night shooting the ball.”
This was one of those games that blend into so many others from Klay’s legend, with shots seemingly guided by a magnetic force from his hand clean through the basket. When neither distance nor angle matters, or whether he is balanced or not.
Thompson, who turns 33 on Wednesday, now has eight games in which he has at least 10 3-pointers. The only person with more? Curry, with 22.
With Klay’s shooting and an outstanding overall game from Jordan Poole – 21 points on 14 shots, a career-high 12 assists – the Thunder were surprisingly defenseless against a Warriors squad without Curry.
“They got what they wanted offensively,” Thunder guard Josh Giddey said. “I mean it helps when Klay is shooting the ball like he did.”
This is the Klay the Warriors need if they are to find their best selves with Curry out for at least a few weeks. It’s not that Thompson needs to go nuclear with astonishing efficiency, but if he’s putting up 30 or so while shooting close to 50-40-90 splits – very much within his ability – Golden State’s offense will breathe much more easily.
“When (Klay) gets going early, he’s such a threat that we just play off of him,” Poole said. “We know he’ll be running around, and we’ll find him when he’s open. But once Klay gets hot or Steph gets hot, teams start to help a little bit more. And we’re such a good cutting team, off the ball, and the reads that we make in our offense really help that.”
The Warriors shot a season-high 57.7 percent from the field, including 52 percent from beyond the arc. Thompson and Poole combined to shoot 17-of-27 from distance. With a season-high 43 assists, the offense was humming.
“We needed it,” Draymond Green said of Golden State’s first win by more than 25 points over a team other than the lowly Spurs. “It has been a while since we have had a blowout win. It’s good to get this one, the first game with Steph out.”
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Curry will miss the next four games before the All-Star break, and likely another half dozen or so after the break. If the Warriors can float around .500 during his absence, they’ll stay in position to chase a top-six seed over the final month.
If Klay has a few more games like this over the next few weeks, the chase will be on while Curry is watching in street clothes.
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