Klay Thompson

Klay shows Warriors he still can be integral to team's success

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After saying he would be open to accepting a reduced role if it meant that he could stay in a Warriors uniform, Klay Thompson showed the Golden State brass he still very much can be an integral part of things.

In what easily was one of the best games in a mostly frustrating 2023-24 season both for Thompson and the only NBA team he has played for, the five-time All-Star put together an outstanding game and helped anchor a 129-107 victory over the Utah Jazzat Delta Center that extended the Warriors’ winning streak to five.

Thompson poured in a game-high 26 points while shooting a respectable 11 of 19 (57.9 percent), making a trio of 3-pointers to go with six rebounds and two assists.

It’s the most that Thompson has scored in exactly one month. He had a season-high 30 points against the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 12.

In the 10 games he has played in since then, Thompson saw his scoring average dip to 14.9 points a game while his playing time, especially late in games, was trimmed.

That, along with the rest of Thompson’s uneven season, has led many to speculate that Thompson likely is on the downside of his career. Some fans had thought the Warriors might try to move him at the NBA trade deadline and voiced their displeasure on social media when he wasn’t traded.

Yet while it’s certainly clear that ACL and Achilles tendon surgeries have robbed Thompson of some of his athletic prowess, he showed against the Jazz he still can be a factor.

“For myself, I felt great individually tonight,” Thompson told "Warriors Postgame Live" after the win. “I felt like my old self as far operating in the mid-range, cutting to the rim and being efficient from the perimeter. I’m going to build off it. I think the sky’s the limit for this team, I really believe that.”

The way Thompson looked against the Jazz, there’s no reason to doubt Golden State making a strong push over the second half of the season.

During the first two months of the campaign, the Warriors had to deal with injuries to several key players and the heart-breaking, sudden death of assistant coach Dejan Milojević.

But Thompson’s shot wasn’t falling like usual and he became an easy target for critics in the media and among Dub Nation. A major cornerstone of the Warriors’ four championship teams, Thompson has had 21 games this season where he shot less than 39 percent.

His shot definitely was dropping against the Jazz, however. Thompson also came through on the defensive end, helping hold Jazz star Lauri Markkanen to 8 of 17 shooting.

“He was phenomenal on both ends,” said Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson, who filled in while Steve Kerr attended a memorial service for Milojević. “His physicality and shot-challenges … Great offensive game but I thought it was one of his better defensive games of the year.”

Draymond Green said he could see a difference in Thompson’s overall demeanor.

“He was composed, not forcing anything,” Green said. “He looked like he was just at peace.”

Earlier in the day, a report surfaced about Thompson adjusting to handling his new reduced role with the Warriors. Speaking with Logan Murdock of "The Ringer," Thompson said he will embrace it all if it means staying with Golden State.

That attitude was not lost on Thompson’s teammates.

“That’s an interesting position to be in,” Green said. “To see him settling in is big for this team. We need Klay. We need a very good Klay, which will allow us to make a run. It was great to see him get settled in tonight and take advantage of the lineups that were out there with him. Got some easy shots. Once he saw a couple go in, the rest is history.”

Green said it was tough to listen to the criticism of Thompson, who played such a pivotal role in building the Warriors into dynasty status.

“That’s my brother. You never want to see anyone struggle. You never want to see anyone get crushed by the media,” Green said. “That’s a tough thing to deal with. But he’s resilient. Always has been.

“I don’t worry about Klay because he’s tough, tough as nails. Just have to support him. That’s what our job is to make sure we’re supporting him at all times, and that he knows, regardless of what’s going on outside this locker room, guys in this locker room have your back. That’s very important for us and important for him.”

That support definitely paid off against the Jazz. Thompson’s continued production the rest of the season is equally important if the Warriors want to make a serious run in the postseason.

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