Sports

What Warriors can do to fix their Klay Thompson problem

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Klay Thompson’s signs of regression are subtle: a slow closeout here, an out-of-rhythm jumper there, the occasional frustrated facial expression.

The Golden State Warriors might not want to discuss it because they’re happy simply because he is back on the floor after missing more than 2 ½ years with injuries, but they know Thompson isn’t the same player he was before a torn ACL and a torn Achilles tendon. Anyone who watched the first two games of these NBA Finals could see a five-time All-Star trying to power through his sudden physical limitations.

Unable to jet into jumpers like he once could, Thompson rushed his shooting motion. On defense, he was consistently a step slow, even when matched against complementary big men instead of high-scoring wings.

Such shortcomings, once easy to overlook, are now glaring – not just because an opponent as formidable as the Celtics tends to expose a player’s flaws, but because the Warriors need the old version of Thompson back more than ever. Jordan Poole has looked overwhelmed with Boston’s physicality, and Andrew Wiggins has too much defensive responsibility to be a reliable No. 2 scoring option.

This all has placed an even heavier burden on Stephen Curry, who is responding as well as can be expected. In the third quarter of Game 2 on Sunday night, after Thompson and Poole went a combined 2-for-13 from the field (1-for-6 from 3-point range) in the first half, Curry scored 14 of his game- high 29 points to push the Warriors’ two-point lead into a 23-point cushion.

During his postgame news conference, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr went so far as to call Curry’s timely flurry “breathtaking” – an adjective that Curry might warrant more often than any other NBA player. But Curry is still human. Without proper support from Thompson, he might struggle to lift the Warriors past the Celtics.

What makes Thompson and Curry such a special backcourt duo is that they have complementary skill sets. When Thompson is curling off screens, knocking down catch-and-shoot jumpers and posting gaudy point totals with minimal dribbles, Curry becomes almost impossible to stop.

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