Reader’s Note: Beginning January 29, WarriorsWorld is spending two weeks examining the play of Klay Thompson. We first performed this exercise with David Lee. In his second NBA season, Thompson has been the Warriors’ most inconsistent player. You can argue that he hasn’t improved much from his rookie year and has made some of the most boneheaded plays this side of JaVale McGee. But when his shot is falling, it’s a thing of beauty. We are providing an unbiased look by watching Klay Thompson, and only Klay Thompson, on both ends of the floor for a stretch of games ending at the All-Star break. This fourth installment covers the game at Houston February 5.
Previous Klay Watch Games
By: Jesse Taylor
Warriors 109, Rockets 140
The big story on this night was the Rockets’ quest to break the NBA record for three pointers made in one game and the Warriors end-of-game efforts to keep them from doing so.
But this is “The Klay Watch” so we’ll have none of that here. But for the record, I like what Mark Jackson did to keep Houston from breaking the record; mainly in response to Patrick Beverley’s showboating after a dunk late in the game when nobody was playing defense.
This is going to be the shortest post in “The Klay Watch” series based on his lack of playing time. He was pulled with 8:56 left in the third quarter and never returned. Which is strange, because, even though the Warriors were being blown out, he didn’t appear to be playing any worse than the other starters and they all played throughout the third. Jackson may have wanted to try Bazemore on James Harden early in the third for a different look and then decided to let Klay rest from there on out since he was already on the bench.
But Klay had been playing the best defense amongst the wing players up to that point. Based on my observations, Klay actually did a nice job on Harden. But really, none of it mattered in this game, so let’s get to the notes.
Klay and Harden guard each other to start the game. This will be a challenge for Klay, but Klay runs off so many screens, it may help tire Harden out.
A minute into the game, Harden takes a handoff from Patrick Patterson, who screens Klay enough to create space for Harden to hit a three as Klay fights back too late. David Lee was guarding Patterson, but played off in case Harden drove inside and was able to offer no help.
On the next Warriors possession, Klay is running around and actually takes Harden all the way down to the back of the basket stansion, then runs back up to curl off a Lee screen at the free line line. He gets the ball and drives in. Omar Asik has to help on Klay, so Klay dumps off to Bogut for an easy layup.
Later, Klay makes a nice defensive play when Parsons goes at both he and Steph Curry on a 2-on-2 break. As Parsons drives in for a layup, Klay blocks the ball from behind. But Jeremy Lin gets the loose ball and swings it to an open Harden who takes a three and is fouled by Curry. Harden hits all three and has six of the Rockets’ first eight points.
In transition, Klay pulls up for a three with Harden in his face and misses. He then fouls Harden on a drive, but the call looks questionable and Klay was in good position.
Working hard on defense, Klay fights through a screen and bodies Harden out, forcing Lin to throw it away. This leads to a steal and a layup for Lee on a fast break.
Thompson misses a jumper, but comes back later and hits one. He sits with two points and the Warriors down 19-27 with 3:30 left in a first quarter where he was much more active than he was in the previous game against the Suns. Also, most of Harden’s first quarter points were not coming on Klay. They were mostly off loose balls or switches. Klay did a nice job of making Harden work on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors bench outduels the Rockets bench to cut the lead to 37-38 at the end of quarter.
Klay quickly checks in at the 10:54 mark of the second with the Warriors down 37-42. He immediately drives in after curling off a screen and receiving the ball. However, he telegraphs a drop off pass and the defender easily steals it. Klay didn’t read defense well on this play. If he did, he would have had an easy layup, but it was obvious he made a decision to pass and never wavered from it. The steal leads to a Lin three.
After another three pointer, the Rockets are 9-12 on 3FG and lead 48-39.
Klay has shown an ability to quickly recover after making bad plays. After his turnover, he creates some great ball movement in the offense. First, he curls off a screen and quickly makes a nice pass to Lee. Then Lee finds an open Landry, who makes the layup as the Rockets defense can’t catch up.
After a Rockets miss, Curry snatches the rebound and kicks it out to Klay who has a one-on-one fast break. Klay does a nice job of attacking the defender, going right to the center of the rim for a strong layup.
After two Rockets free throws, the Warriors get an inbounds play on their baseline. Curry finds Klay coming off a screen and Klay drills the jumper. He has six points and cuts the lead to 45-50 with 8:13 left in the half.
This is his last basket and last field goal attempt of the game.
The Rockets 3-point barrage continues. The Warriors do their best to keep up, but it’s too much. At the 7:11 mark, they pull within three at 49-52. But the Rockets answer with three consecutive 3-pointers. One was by Harden in transition when Klay picked up someone else.
Guarding Parsons, Klay gets burned on a backdoor cut and Lin finds Parsons for an easy layup. 55-66 at 3:57 mark.
On the Rockets’ next possessions, Klay picks up his defensive intensity on Parsons. However, Parsons dribbles around the arc and takes Klay inside once he reaches the top of the key. He gets his shoulder passed Klay and into the lane for a layup. 57-68.
After playing help defense and fouling Asik, Klay sits with 2:29 to go.
A Curry half court heave at the buzzer goes in and its 62-77 at the half.
Klay begins the second half with solid defense on Harden. On one possession he plays him tight and forces a 24-second violation as Harden can’t get his shot off. It takes place at the 9:47 mark and the Warriors down 64-79.
Here’s where Jackson may have gotten fed up with Klay. He has just six points on five shots in the third quarter. Curry misses a three and Lee grabs the offensive rebound. He gets the ball to Klay who quickly decides he’s going to shoot the ball no matter what. Everything in his body language says this and I called it even before he drove the lane on Parsons.
So he immediately puts his head down and drives on Parsons. Then he pushes off to create space for his jumper and the ref calls an obvious offensive foul. Then the Rockets come down and Parsons hits a three when Barnes fails to properly close out on him. 64-82 9:25 left in third.
Play continues and Lin hits a three in transition with Klay as the only defender in the area. Harden was at the 3-point line right next to Lin, forming a triangle with Lin and Harden as the base and Klay as the peak. Klay was guarding Harden and chose to stay on him even though Lin was nearby with the ball. Jackson may have wanted Klay to run at Lin to force the pass. With no one around, Lin would have swung it to Harden for a wide-open three. But maybe Jackson felt Klay should have at least forced Lin to make that decision, opposed to leaving him wide open for the three.
Jackson calls a timeout after Lin’s three and Klay is replaced by Bazemore. This is with 8:56 left in the third and Klay never returns.
Watching the play again, the real culprit here looked like Curry. Parsons had the ball in transition and Barnes already picked him up, as this was his man. Instead of looking for his man, Lin, Curry went at Parsons as well. This led to an open Lin, and Parsons, seeing both Barnes and Curry right on him, swung the ball to Lin. Barnes was the first to react to Lin, charging at him. But it was too late.
Everything in this game by the Warriors came too late.
I can’t really rip Klay too much here. Most of the game recaps I’m reading are merging Curry and Klay’s stat lines together, saying the Warriors backcourt shot 6-17 from the field and 1-6 from the 3-point line. But Klay was 3-5 from the field (0-1 3FG), so most of the missed shots came from Curry.
Klay was not great. He had two sloppy turnovers – the drop off pass that was stolen and the forced drive that led to him pushing off Parsons. But he had some nice jump shots and a very aggressive drive on a fast break. With a full, healthy lineup, Klay is not getting as many plays called for him as he’s used to. When he does get plays called for him, he is also doing a nice job, for the most part, of finding open teammates rather than forcing shots.
His defense on Harden was actually very good. Harden finished with 18 points, well below his average of 25.6. And as previously mentioned, many of those points came at the expense of other players. Klay had a mental lapse on Parsons that led to a back-door layup, but other than that, I thought he was fine on that end of the floor. He got beat a few times, but that’s going to happen. It was not due to a lack of effort or being out of position.