Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the best backcourt in the NBA for a reason. Both are capable of going off on any given night, but if one player is struggling, the other can pick up the slack.
Such was the case in Game 2 against New Orleans on Monday. With the Pelicans blanketing Curry, Thompson took over, scoring 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and leading the Warriors to a 97-87 win and a 2-0 series lead.
It was a clutch performance from Thompson, who benefitted from the Pelicans’ pick-your-poison approach.
“Well, Steph had all the attention,” Bay Area News Group columnist Marcus Thompson said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He had Quincy Pondexter on him like a wet jersey. He had Anthony Davis waiting to bring the help, so that left Klay Thompson kind of one-on-one with shorter guys, against smaller guards. I feel like Klay saw that – the Warriors saw that – and said, ‘Hey, let’s milk Klay instead of trying to force it to Curry, who isn’t playing well. And once Klay gets a couple shots going, he find a rhythm, he finds a groove and then he becomes really hard to guard.”
Thompson shot 11-of-17 overall. Curry, on the other hand, scored 22 points but needed 21 shots to get there. He also shot 3-of-9 from distance and had five turnovers.
Curry can’t be stopped, but if seems physical play can contain him.
“His three’s not falling,” Thompson said. “Curry’s one of those guys that, he wants to shoot the three – so when he’s being covered a lot and he finally sees an opening, he rushes it sometimes. That’s what he’s been doing. He’s not getting many looks. So when he does, he’s really trying to take advantage of them. He rushes. He’s not getting the transition 3. So yeah, the physicality has affected him. It’s hurt his efficiency. He’s turned the ball over too much. But that opens up stuff for other people, so I don’t think he minds it. I know he wants some more foul calls, but as long as Klay can get the advantage against a Norris Cole or another smaller guard, I think he’ll take it.”
The Warriors overcame a sluggish start – they trailed 28-17 after the first quarter – with 25 points from their bench. In fact, Draymond Green credited Golden State’s reserves for the win.
“It was an ugly first quarter,” Thompson said. “It looked a lot like the fourth quarter of Game 1. So when the second unit came in, there was finally life in the building. Leandro Barbosa, of all people, came in and gave the Warriors a surge. (Marreese) Speights hit a couple of jumpers. Suddenly there was life back in the building. So Draymond is saying that they were kind of dead in the water. They had 17 points in the first quarter. Klay Thompson has scored 37 in one quarter by himself, so that’s not very much. But the second unit came in and kind of brought some life back into the building (and) gave the starters a chance to rest and kind of figure some things out. He feels like that was the difference in the game, that got them back in the game and prevented it from being a blowout.”
The Pelicans, meanwhile, head back to New Orleans down two games in the series. They’ve showed a lot of grit thus far but are yet to scratch the win column. Still, Davis has been masterful in leading his young squad, averaging 30.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals in the series.
“He’s so long and athletic that he requires you to really be on your game,” Thompson said. “If you make a mistake on the game plan, he’s going to exploit it. On defense, he’s always there. Even when he’s not there, the Warriors are missing layups because they’re expecting him to be there. You just don’t see a guy impact the mentality of another team on both ends of the court like this. LeBron is probably the only other guy who you fear as much on defense as you do on offense. That’s something that the Warriors don’t deal with too often. They’re having a tough time trying to figure out how to handle this guy on both ends.”
Davis even seems to be in Curry’s head. If Curry shoots a jumper, Davis can block it. If Curry dribbles past Davis, Davis could block the shot from behind.
Curry doesn’t know what to do.
“Even the possible MVP of the league is like, ‘Hold on, what do I do with this guy?’” Thompson said. “You can just kind of see the effect he’s having.”
Game 3 is Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET.