The Warriors have seven players who can score 20 on any given night, maybe even more if a guy like Shaun Livingston or Justin Holiday catches fire. On Wednesday night, during yet another victory by double digits (this one was their 20th of the season, a 117-102 win over the Pacers), it was Klay Thompson’s turn.
Oh yeah, that guy. The player who scored 41 points on 18 shots in the second game of the year (the one right after the press conference announcing his lucrative contract extension), who gives equal effort at both ends, just so happened to play his best offensive game in quite some time two nights before Kevin Love comes to town. Thompson scored 40 points, made 6-of-11 threes and was the difference in the third quarter of a game that was a little more difficult than the final score (or Indiana’s record) would indicate.
If there was a “the best trades you make are the ones you don’t” Hall of Fame, Thompson (and David Lee and maybe even Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green, too) for Love looks like a first ballot selection.
Mark Jackson often called Thompson the most low maintenance (lowest maintenance?) player he’d ever coached, which is one of the many reasons why Thompson fits in perfectly on this team. Many with Thompson’s offensive abilities (he can shoot from distances that sometimes seems limitless and possesses a burgeoning dribble-drive game), would try to score 40 every night. But that wouldn’t work on a team with Stephen Curry and a host of other players who can fill it up.
Harrison Barnes led all players in scoring during Monday night’s win against the Thunder with 23. He only had four against the Pacers … although two came on this play:
It’s that kind of team, and with Andrew Bogut back for the first time in several games, Steve Kerr admitted afterward that he had no idea what his rotations were going to be.
“It was a great win,” Kerr told reporters. “One of my favorite wins of the year.”
It was kind of a backwards win. Generally, the Warriors have roared out in front during the early stages of these recent wins, building 20-point leads that allowed them to cruise in the second half. In this one, the Warriors looked like a team that read its own press clippings from the Thunder game over the first 18 minutes or so, before ending the first half with what Kerr termed “urgency” to tie it at 50-50 at the break. Kerr also mentioned how his team committed six fewer turnovers than the Pacers, and said the defensive “chaos” caused by the Warriors late in the first half and through the third quarter led to their advantage in fast break points (28-11).
Depth and defense — toss in a bunch of intangibles, like unselfishness and camaraderie, and you get a Golden State team with just five losses over the first 33 games.
Bogut and David Lee provided a spark in a second half where Thompson scored 15 points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth quarter. Mo Speights scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth, when the Warriors pulled away. Speights is another one of those players who can drop 20 on a team without a problem, and the Warriors’ much-ballyhooed depth was on Kerr’s mind after their fifth straight win by at least 13 points.
“It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be tricky. We’ve got a lot of guys who can play, a lot of guys who are really playing at a high level, but only so many minutes to go around,” said the Warriors head coach.
“I’ve told our players, the sacrifice that they’re going to have to make is not going to be easy. But they have to make it if we’re going to be good. One thing I’m confident about is that our guys are so committed to each other, to the team, and they’re such high-character people that they’re going to make the sacrifice. I know that. But it’s not going to be easy, because from one night to the next it could be your night, it might not be, and they’re going to have to accept that.”
It’ll be an interesting thing to follow this season. Injuries will occur, and that’ll open things up a bit for the healthy players on those nights. But when this team is close to “#fullsquad” status, and a guy like Thompson has it going, the other guys are mostly going to have to sit back and be happy defending, cutting and passing. There seemed to be no problem with that on Wednesday night.
— Curry had 21 points, 15 assists, four steals and became the fastest player (by about 90 games) to make 1,000 three-pointers (he buried three more). How many threes is he going to make in his career — 3,000? More? He’s only going to shoot more of them as he gets older.
— Bogut had eight rebounds in 14 minutes, set a few good screens and supplied the “oop” on Shaun Livingston’s “alley.” He didn’t jump off the TV screen as a ferocious defensive force, but he didn’t look hurt and slow, either.
— We’re really nitpicking when it comes to a team that’s on pace to finish 70-12, but when the Pacers intentionally fouled Andre Iguodala, a slight Warriors weakness came to light. If Iguodala and Bogut play crunch time minutes due to their defensive prowess and experience, that’s two guys on the floor who shoot about 50% from the line.
— Iguodala’s struggles at the line could be mental, or maybe it’s from not getting to the line all that much. He shot 82% back in 2006-07, when he attempted 7.3 free throws per game. Over his last four seasons, when his free throw clip dipped well below 70%, he hasn’t gotten to the line nearly as often as before. Anyway, these are the things you worry about when a team’s average game is an 11-point win.
— What’s more interesting, that C.J. Watson is a starter in the NBA (he was productive during his Warrior days, but it always seemed like he’d be a reserve guard throughout his career), or that Indiana had two guys named C.J. (also Miles) in the starting lineup? Yep, the answer is probably “none of the above.” Let’s move on.
— Draymond Green was a couple more made threes (he went 1-for-5 from behind the arc) away from another awesome-looking stat line. As it was, he had seven points, a team-high nine rebounds, three assists, two of the Warriors’ three blocks, five personal fouls, one technical foul and the highest plus/minus on the team (+23).
— Green’s most memorable play — even though the game was well in hand — was when he passed up an open shot and instead floated a lob to Speights to punctuate the victory and send Oracle into one final tizzy. Green ran with his arms spread out at his sides, “flying” around the court in celebration, while Speights raised the roof.
— Nate Thurmond (who averaged 15 rebounds … for his career) did a nice job describing the current Warriors to Rosalyn Gold-Onwude: “They’re top-notch guys. They work hard. They all play for the team. They’re not concerned with individual stats. It’s just a beauty to watch and I think we’ll see a championship.”