Warriors destroy Cavaliers in Klay Thompson's glorious return. It's getting scary!
Klay Thompson’s comeback as a Golden State Warrior did not disappoint, as he rumbled his way to 17 points in a 96-82 beatdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his first game back after two-and-a-half year layoff, Thompson came out firing as though he could knock any potential rust off through sheer willpower (7-of-18 shooting in 20 minutes).
There were some magical highlight moments during this emotionally charged contest, but overall this game felt like a return to normalcy. Splash Bros on the floor, Cavs getting crushed, and Golden State’s home crowd in a feeding frenzy. That’s what Warriors basketball is supposed to look like, right?
Golden State’s player intros felt eerily menacing. I expected to hear their classic California Love remix by Rusko, but instead the arena was flooded by dark 808’s that banged out like ominous war drums. The crowd was locked in with gold blooded intensity, maniacally roaring their support for each starter as they were introduced.
Stephen Curry was announced penultimately. Normally the team’s MVP gets their name called last to give the crowd a chance to really adore him.
But not last night. That honor was reserved for Thompson. After 941 days away from the game it was time for he, his teammates, and Dub Nation to soak in the moment. The music cut out. Longtime Warriors PA man Franco Finn mischievously snarled “Heeeeeeee’s Baaaaaack” as though conjuring up a horror movie monster.
EPIC. From there Thompson preceded to squeeze every ounce of juice he could out of his 20 minutes, flying around the court defensively and putting up shots like there was no tomorrow.
Here’s his first bucket which our very own Eric Apricot discussed the funny backstory of in this morning’s Explain One Play. I’m not gonna lie, I was kinda nervous about him barreling towards the paint and seeking contact immediately. But he looked confident and strong and made it work:
He then proceeded to erase all doubts about his athleticism and courage when he got jiggy on the perimeter with the shotclock winding down and posterized the Cavs:
Then there was his first three, which was so easy I started giggling as it unfolded. Every season we get people complaining about Coach Steve Kerr’s egalitarian offense where everyone touches the ball and Curry doesn’t ballpound, but when the Splash Bros are on the court it’s damn near unguardable.
Thompson, Curry, and Andrew Wiggins (an elite 3PT shooter in his own right) all hanging out around the perimeter as the defense scrambles to recover from the penetration. That penetration was borne off of Curry unselfishly passing out of the Cavaliers’ soft trap leading to Otto Porter Jr. and Kevon Looney working a simple two-man game.
Check how spread out the floor is when Klay receives the pass from OPJ. HE’S ONE OF THE GREATEST SHOOTERS OF ALL TIME AND HE’S WIDE OPEN FOLKS.
Thompson was putting up shots from everywhere on the floor and even though he didn’t shoot a high percentage, his aggression forced the Cavaliers to account for him on the floor and his teammates benefited. Here’s his shot chart:
Of course, Thompson is a two-way player and his defense looked pretty good after the layoff. He had a few fouls I’m sure he’d like to have back, but overall he didn’t cost the Dubs defensively. Per NBA.com, Cleveland shot 3-of-7 from the field when Thompson was the primary defender.
Frankly, we’ve all seen Thompson ignite the crowd before with his unique combo of deadly offense and stellar defense. And we’ve seen Golden State destroy a team in the third quarter and end the game early before (last night they unleashed a dominant 28-14 run in the 3rd period). And we’ve surely seen the Warriors hand an L to Kevin Love’s Cavaliers before (Love was 1-of-7 from the field in 14 minutes for Cleveland).
But there were many who thought Golden State’s run was over and the magic was gone. I’m reminded of Draymond Green’s quote after Thompson’s injury in the 2019 Finals:
"I think everybody thinks it's kind of the end of us," Green said. "But that's just not smart. We're not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn't our year, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But, yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, it's the end of a run and all that jazz. I don't see it happening, though. We'll be back."