Klay has Warriors trending up before reinforcements arrive


SAN FRANCISCO -- In a game that perfectly fit the "tale of two halves" cliche down to the definition, no player fit the saying better than Klay Thompson in the Warriors' 123-105 23-point comeback win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at Chase Center.

Ending a month to remember, Klay started out the night missing his first four shots, two of which were blocked, along with two turnovers and one offensive foul before making his fifth attempt -- a 3-pointer to cut the Warriors' deficit to two, 15-13. He shot 1 of 7 in the first quarter with three turnovers and then missed all three of his tries in the second quarter. By halftime, Thompson was 1 of 10 from the field, missed three of his four 3-point attempts and had scored just seven points. 

Thompson was a minus-21 in plus/minus at the half, with the Warriors down by 17 points. 

What changed over the next two quarters, in which he was a team-high plus-28? 

"He doesn't change," Donte DiVincenzo said on what has impressed him most lately about his teammate. "He just does not change. You never know if he is having a good game or bad game. That is really important for us, because we are going to need him in the biggest moments. 

"He stepped up big time tonight." 

Thompson had a shorter answer: Two words needed for the 3-point sharpshooter. 

"Shooters shoot," he said on "Warriors Postgame Live."

With 1:46 left in the third quarter, Thompson hit a three to erase a 23-point deficit, giving the Warriors their first lead of the night at 79-78. They wound up leading 87-82 going in the fourth. The score was 63-40 in the second quarter in favor of the Blazers. 

Playing the entire third quarter, Thompson nearly doubled his point totals. Over 12 minutes, he scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 2 of 3 from deep. The Warriors outscored Portland by 22 points in the third quarter, their largest single-quarter advantage this season, and Klay was part of every single second. 

As the Warriors pushed their lead up to 19 in the fourth quarter, Thompson added another four points in the fourth, giving him 16 in 16-plus second-half minutes. He shot 7 of 11 in the second half and 8 of 21 overall, scoring 23 points with a plus-7 for the game. Tale of two halves, down to the definition. 

But his hot hand in the second half much more resembled who Thompson was all of February, compared to his cold shooting the first two quarters. The timing couldn't have been better for the Warriors. Steph Curry played only two-plus games all month, getting hurt late in the third quarter of his third game in February, yet the Warriors started the month with a loss that dropped them to seventh in the Western Conference and ended it with a comeback win that made them fifth in the standings. 

"I just see Klay," Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said when asked about Thompson in his pregame press conference. "I just see him taking it very personal that people have said that he can never get back to being who he was before the injuries. He's doing an excellent job. He's just being him. With Steph being out, you can tell he's been so much more aggressive to try and score the basketball.

"The team feeds so much off of what Klay does on both ends of the floor. I just think he's playing excellent. You always know he's going to be there for you defensively, but offensively, he's carried the team for a little bit now. I'm pretty sure he's happy to show people he can still do that."

Thompson in January set a new single-month career high after averaging 27.0 points in 10 games. He played 11 games, with the Warriors going 6-5 in said games, and has a strong argument he was even better in February. After dropping 23 points on the Blazers, Thompson averaged 25.5 points -- the third-highest of his career for a single month -- on 45.3-percent shooting from the field, 45.4 percent on threes and 90.6 percent at the free-throw line, a 61.9 true shooting percentage.

Of the 11 games he played, two were 40-plus performances, with four games scoring at least 30 points and seven putting up 20 or more points. Klay had two games in the February where he scored 42 points and made 12 3-pointers, and both felt like must-wins. He scored more total points (280), made more shots (96) and 3-pointers (59) and drained more free throws (29) than any other month this season. 

None of that is what has impressed his coach Steve Kerr most. Throughout the month, especially coming out of the All-Star break, Thompson showed a sense of maturity and an evolution as a player the same month he turned 33 years old. 

February wasn't only about scoring. Thompson also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and nearly 3.0 free throw attempts. His plus/minus was plus-43 over the final three games of the month, and he averaged a plus-2.4. 

"It's the fact that it's not just the scoring, it's the leadership and the sense of what is needed from him with the other guys out," Kerr said before Tuesday's win. "Just talking with the younger players, giving them encouragement and being steadier emotionally than he was earlier in the year when he was pressing. I think the team has felt that and responded to that."

RELATED: Warriors show signs of contender with vintage third quarter

The Warriors now are 12-12 in games without Curry this season, and 5-4 in the nine games he has missed to his current lower left leg injury. Curry scrimmaged with Warriors backups and G League players Tuesday, and a re-evaluation is expected in the coming days or as soon as Wednesday. He's on his way back, and soon. 

Andre Iguodala also was part of the scrimmage and should return to game action in the near future as well. Gary Payton II is tweeting how much he misses the game, though he isn't expected to be re-evaluated for another two weeks. Andrew Wiggins has missed the Warriors' last five games due to a family matter, and there isn't a timeline for when he'll be back. 

Reinforcements are on the way. In the meantime, Thompson has stepped up as a leader by example and with his voice, still shooting the lights out at the same time. He doesn't have to strive to be his old self, because the current version still is pretty damn good. 

"I promise you this, when we're healthy, no one wants to see us in the postseason," Thompson said. "I promise you that. We expect to win a championship. While we're here, everything else is falling short. That's a special, privileged place to be in.

"Not many franchises can wholeheartedly say that." 

Thompson still is a major reason why the Warriors can feel it on the inside, and say it on the outside.

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