Klay Thompson is having a December to remember, which is remarkable for a few reasons.
- Thompson didn’t look like himself early in the season due to back pain.
- We’re barely halfway through the month.
- Thompson sprained his ankle on Dec. 8 against Indiana after scoring 39.
If we take out the game in Milwaukee, when Thompson’s shot was short more often than not (a sure sign that his ankle was still weak/sore) and he finished with 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting, his December stats have reminded everyone once again that he’s probably the second-best pure shooter in the NBA. He’s averaging 30 points on 54.3% shooting in his other five December games, while making 53.4% of his threes. He’s averaging 6.2 made threes per game in those games.
If we combine the game the Pacers game and the one he played last night in which he scored 27 points in the third quarter and ended up with 43, he’s 18-for-29 on threes. In two games! Just for fun, let’s check out the highlights from both.
Catch-and-shoot threes, turnaround threes, turnaround jumpers on the baseline, even some drives that led to either layups for Thompson or lobs when the opposing center left his man to guard Thompson. It’s unfair for teams that have to do everything in their power to stop Stephen Curry when Thompson plays like this.
If we go back a couple of games and include the wins on Nov. 28 and 30 that came after Harrison Barnes sprained his ankle far more severely than Thompson sprained his, Thompson’s shooting numbers still look good. And that’s including his performance against the Bucks when he wasn’t at full strength.
- Eight games without Barnes: 24.6 ppg, 51.9 FG%, 51.3 3p%, 5.0 3pg
- 16 games with Barnes healthy: 16.1 ppg, 44.2 FG%, 39.6 3p%, 2.4 3pg
This isn’t to say Barnes held Thompson back, just that the perfect storm may have occurred. Thompson’s improved health and supreme confidence could’ve helped him round into form naturally if Barnes was still in the lineup … but would he get as many three-point opportunities with Barnes in the starting lineup? It’s possible, since Brandon Rush likes to jack up shots from behind the arc as well, but he’s attempting over 50% more threes per game since Barnes was sidelined.
It’s not just Thompson who’s been picking up the slack, either.
Stephen Curry is shooting better in December (33.1 ppg, 54.5 FG%, 48.6 3p%) than he did in November (30.1 ppg, 49.5 FG%, 43.8 3p%). Draymond Green is on an entirely different level in December (16.3 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.7 bpg) than he was in the team’s first 19 games, when he was still pretty damned good (13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.4 bpg).
BREAKING: Curry, Green and Thompson combine to form one of the best trios in the NBA.
But the Warriors still need Barnes. Curry is playing 35.5 minutes per game in December; he averaged 34.7 mpg last year. Green is playing 36.7 mpg in December, almost three more minutes per contest than he played in the previous 19, and his shooting numbers are down across the board this month.
Despite what we saw last night, when the Warriors turned up their defense and went on a 68-23 run over a 17.5-minute span to crush the Suns, we saw what fatigue can do in Milwaukee. The Warriors’ trademark defense has showed itself in spurts this season, as opposed to the Spurs, who are locking teams up for 48 minutes these days. The Spurs are playing at a much slower pace and the Warriors are 25-1, so it’s hard to quibble. However, once they get Barnes back at full strength and can allow Curry and Green to rest a little more, the Warriors should be even better than they were over the first 17 games when Barnes was healthy — partly because the “Small Ball Death Squad” will be back in full, but also because Thompson’s October/November mini-slump is a thing of the past.