NBA Finals 2022: Despite Game 2 win over Celtics, Warriors need more of struggling Klay Thompson


NBA Finals 2022: Despite Game 2 win over Celtics, Warriors need more of struggling Klay Thompson

Anything written about Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson in relation to this NBA Finals has to be framed as the fact that he’s evenly grounded is awe-inspiring and inspiring.

Thompson missed two full seasons thanks to two serious lower body injuries and worked tirelessly to get back on his feet. There were some who wondered if he would ever make a full return, as well as some who wondered if the Warriors trio of Thompson, Draymond Green and Steph Curry would ever make it back to the Finals after a couple of poor seasons would.

Both of those things happened, and they’re both worthy of recognition and even celebration. But with that said, the Warriors will simply need more of Thompson – aka the second “Splash Brother” – to move forward if they want to raise their fourth banner under the tutelage of Steve Kerr.

To say Thompson didn’t care about the first two games of the finals would be an understatement. In the 69 minutes he played during those two games, Thompson hit just 10 of his 33 shots from the ground (including four of 19 in Game 2), and he hit just four of his 15 attempts from long range. He recorded just 26 total points, five rebounds and four assists. Thompson was largely a non-factor in both games. Despite Thompson’s struggles, the Warriors won Game 2 107-88 Sunday night after dropping Game 1.

Well, Thompson’s missed shots are unlike many other players who miss shots because his sheer presence on the ground draws defensive attention thanks to the reputation he’s built throughout his career. Even when he’s not shooting himself, he helps create open chances for his teammates, as he did here:

Thompson isn’t directly involved in the play, but he pulls Jaylen Brown out of the storyline. Brown doesn’t want to leave Thompson open, which in turn opens up a lane for Curry coming out of the dribble handoff. A number like this doesn’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, but Thompson puts it in spades. However, he’s even more valuable to the Warriors when he’s putting down high-firing shots — as he did in Golden State’s final games against the Dallas Mavericks (32 points on 12 of 25 shots) and Memphis Grizzlies (30 points on 11 of 25). 22 shootings).

How can Thompson come back to this? Maybe by slowing things down a bit. It seems like he’s only been pushing very lightly in the final so far. It almost seems like he’s so eager to take down the big beasts we’re all used to seeing him hit, that he’s forcing things at times. He also appears to be allowing frustration to creep in, as he could be seen clasping his hands and shaking his head as failures began to pile up on Sunday night.

Boston’s defense certainly deserves some credit for Thompson’s struggles so far on the series. After all, they were the best defensive team in the league during the regular season for a reason, and they did a commendable job of trimming his looks. However, if you go back and look at Thompson’s Game 2 misses, you’ll see a lot of doable shots – particularly doable ones for Thompson. Like this one:

And this:

These are recordings we’ve seen countless times of Thompson throughout his career. So he’s definitely capable of it. While it might be a bit simplistic to say that he just needs to get better at what he tries, there’s at least some truth to it. After all, the NBA isn’t called the “Make or Miss League” for nothing.

When Thompson shoots, the Warriors are extremely difficult to bring down. If he’s not, well, they’re still not easy to defeat, but they’re getting more vulnerable. Of course, aside from Thompson just settling in and finding a rhythm, it’s also up to Coach Kerr to continue to put him in a position to thrive. In Game 3, he might even consider playing a few more direct sets for Thompson to try and get him going.

It’s especially important for Thompson to make shots to maximize his value to the Warriors at this point since he has yet to return to his form as the dominant defender he once was. Maybe he’ll do it again, but he’s a step slower on that end now than he used to be, and that step takes him from a lockdown perimeter defender to an above-average one. The Warriors even chose to have him guard on some Boston bigs holdings like Al Horford, rather than use him on perimeter threats like Jaylen Brown. When Thompson hasn’t made his shots in the past, he’s been able to make up for it defensively, but that’s not the case currently.

Again, Thompson is not to blame, but the facts cannot be ignored. He just has to be better than in games 1 and 2. He would admit that himself. Opportunities will always present themselves alongside Curry, the game’s best shooter, and it’s up to him to capitalize on them. His ability to do so could go a long way in determining which team will ultimately win the Larry O’Brien Trophy this season.

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