SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson knew he needed to use the same patience he’d learned over the past two years and apply it to his return shot. And for the most part, it seemed to pay off in the Golden State Warriors’ 102-86 win over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.
“Oh yeah, no question,” Thompson said when asked if his performance was his best since returning to court. “I made some shots, made some difficult shots along the way. … I was just happy to see the ball go through the rim.”
Thompson led the Warriors on 21 points on 6-of-13 shots, including 3-for-8 of 3. It marked the first time Thompson had captained the team since posting 30 points in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals – – the game in which he tore his ACL. It was also his highest-scoring achievement to date in his return and best per field goal percentage (46.2%).
“He’s definitely getting his legs under him. He’s looking better and better and his wind and fitness have improved,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
Thompson has shot 35.7% of 3 in his five games since returning from his 941 day hiatus. Most of his misses were short, but when his legs come back under him, as Kerr says they are, the Warriors expect those shots to come back.
Neither Thompson nor his team have ever worried about his shot. It’s what he does. And until it returns in full, they will live with the misses.
“I don’t care if I miss 100 shots in a row, I’ll never stop shooting the ball,” Thompson said. “I love it too much, and I work too hard not to.”
His favorite shot of the night was the last he took in the first half: “A classic corner 3. Just a fake pump, step up, throw it down,” he said.
Since his return, Thompson has added a new dimension to his attack as a playmaker and rim attacker.
“Steve just held me back,” Thompson joked about not doing so many plays for others before this season.
According to Kerr, the Warriors didn’t need Thompson as a facilitator before, as he played alongside Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. But now it’s something this current roster could use more of.
As for his increased effort to attack the basket, Thompson sees it as a sign of good faith that his body is where it needs to be. He also said it has helped him get into a rhythm as his long shot catches up.
As well as Thompson having his best individual performance since his return more than a week ago, the team believe it was the most cohesive performance it has played as a unit, especially the way Thompson and Curry played together. Curry finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from outside the arc, reminiscent of the days when the Splash Brothers played together at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
“It goes so quickly. [Thompson] and [Curry] heating up so fast,” said Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins. “When they do that, it’s damn near impossible to stop.”
In the third quarter, Curry returned to the locker room for several minutes after banging his left hand on a deflected ball. He returned with a bandage wrapped around his left middle finger—the other hand that kept him out of the Warriors’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Kerr doesn’t believe it’s anything serious.
Tuesday’s performance was the first proof for the Warriors that their patience so far has paid off. But more is needed, as they wait at least two weeks for Draymond Green to return from a lower back disc problem and for Andre Iguodala to return after battling the Pistons.
But there is confidence that their patience will once again be worth the wait.
“I can’t wait for that day,” Thompson said.
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