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 fifth installment covers the game at Oklahoma City on February 6.
Previous Klay Watch Games
By: Jesse Taylor
Warriors 98, Thunder 119
Am I being too easy on Klay? Am I being too tough on Klay? I really have no idea. He’s a bit of an enigma. I have a hard time figuring the guy’s game out. Could be his personality. Could be his game itself.
For example, just when I think he may have potential as a lock-down defender, he let’s Russell Westbrook blow by him multiple times like he’s a 7-year-old trying ice skating for the first time. On the other hand, what defender in this league hasn’t watched Westbrook blow by him?
But he also had multiple lapses in judgment throughout the game – most of which occurred when he played off Kevin Martin at the 3-point line like Martin was Kendrick Perkins.
Despite no points, rebounds or assists in the first quarter, Klay actually got off to a pretty decent start.
On defense, he is guarding Westbrook, who doesn’t do much on Klay – at first. Westbrook is trying to get Kevin Durant the ball early on and Klay is actually sagging off Westbrook to help on Durant.
When Wesrbrook gets picked up by Steph Curry in transition, he goes right at him – backing him down to the post then hitting a turnaround jumper to tie it at 8 with 8:53 in the first.
Off a Durant missed three, Klay has nice position for the rebound, but Serge Ibaka (who was playing with an “I should have made the All-Star team over David Lee” vendetta all game) skies high above Klay for the offensive rebound and put back.
Near the end of the quarter, Lee does Klay a very nice favor. In transition, Klay picks up Westbrook, who performs one of his crazy stutter-step moves while remaining at full speed. This leaves Klay frozen in his tracks, but instead of getting embarrassed, Klay is saved by Lee’s quick rotation help, which causes Westbrook to stop his acceleration, back off and pass the ball.
However, Westbrook makes up for it on the next possession. He goes right at Klay, stutter-steps, then goes right around Klay, who fouls Westbrook as he’s shooting a layup that goes in. His free throw gives the Thunder a 27-17 lead with 3:33 left in the first.
Offensively, Klay took some good shots and made strong moves, but nothing went in. Early in the game, he takes a screen from Lee, catching the ball as curls around and drives into the lane passed Thabo Sefolosha. He makes a strong move with his right hand for a layup, but Ibaka’s long out-stretched reach tips the ball enough to force the miss. Nice drive by Klay. Better block by Serge.
A minute later, the Warriors run the same play. This time, Klay drives and drops the ball to Lee who glides in and is fouled, making both free throws.
With under 8 minutes in the first, Lee steals the ball and passes it up to Klay. This results in a 2-on-1 break for the Warriors. Klay leads the break and makes a nice feed to Lee. But Ibaka – my goodness Ibaka – smothers Lee like a dog catcher scoops up a puppy in his net. Two big blocks for Serge. Four more to come.
Down 13-18, Klay uses a Festus Ezeli screen (actually, Festus was kind of just standing there) to dribble to an open spot at the 3-point line. Klay gets a nice look, but misses short.
Isolated on Kevin Martin, Klay decides to test his offensive repertoire, but he doesn’t really have much of one when there are no screens. He dribbles baseline on Martin, then does an awkward step-back shot off his left foot that left his right foot confused. It’s way off, but Lee is there to help Klay again, this time tipping in his missed shot.
Klay sits with 3:01 left and the Warriors down 9. So again, not a bad first quarter, but also not a good one.
He checks back in with 8:51 in the second and the Warriors now down 17; 27-44.
Whereas the first quarter, Klay didn’t make a shot, but still played well; the second quarter was full of bad plays by Klay, yet he hit two 3-pointers.
In what is the first of several moments where Klay sags way too far away from Martin to shade Durant, Martin sneaks along the baseline right by Klay for an open alley-oop. He catches the perfect pass from Reggie Jackson but misses what would have been a very nice dunk.
Klay obviously didn’t learn a lesson here, as the next time down, he is guarding Martin who is posted along the left wing of the 3-point arc. When Durant drives to the right side, away from Klay and Martin, Klay moves toward the driving Durant, but nowhere near a spot that would actually allow him to be of any help. Durant sees this and swings it quickly to Martin, who hits the wide-open three.
Now, I’m sure this is not what Mark Jackson meant when he asked Klay to shade Durant. When a player you are not even guarding drives away from you, so far away from you that you can’t even help, you should not sag so far into the lane that you can’t get back to the player you are defending. Especially when that player is Martin – whose entire game is centered on standing at the 3-point line and waiting for a pass so he can flick his 44% shot from beyond the arc.
Then on a pass from Lee, Westbrook gets a hand on the ball and it bounces off Klay’s hands and out of bonds. Turnover Lee. Westbrook then drives right by Klay for a runner. 31-53 with 6:46 to go in the half. Nothing is going right for Warriors.
Klay finally hits a shot, a three off a drive and kick from Curry. Klay stuttered to make Martin pause then shot it. 34-53.
But he comes back later with a very lazy pass to Lee at the top of the key near half court. It’s easily stolen by Westbrook, who charges the other way and has to be fouled by Klay at the basket. Klay’s turnover actually caused the usually retrained Jackson to slap the scorer’s table in frustration. Westbrook hits 1-2 FTs for a 41-56 score with 4:10 left.
Klay hits another three after Curry rebounds his own miss and kicks it out to Klay at the top of the key for the open shot. 2:59 left; 44-58.
He ends the half with two bad shots. First, he forces a jumper with Sefolosha right on him and it misses badly. He comes back down on the next possession and forces another shot along the baseline that misses badly.
It’s 49-67 at the half. Klay has 6 points (2-7 FG, 2-3 3FG), 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
After a bad start to the third that sees Klay gets his corner three rejected by Sefolosha, Klay begins to play better and the Warriors make a comeback.
Curry has the ball in transition and sees Klay sprinting down the sideline (actually outracing Harrison Barnes). Curry gets Klay the ball and he comes to a jump stop and hits a 3-pointer. 54-69; 9:56 in third.
Here’s a proper Durant sag play that works well. Durant drives towards Klay’s side of the court. Klay moves in towards Durant and knocks the ball away. Curry picks up the loose ball and feeds to Klay for a dunk before Perkins can get to him. 7:55 left; 61-73.
On the next possession, the Warriors help defense lets Klay down. He shades Westrook to force him left, expecting help, but no one is there and Westbrook goes left and flies in for a dunk.
Klay then misses a jumper curling off a screen. Good shot, just missed.
Down 11 with 4:09 left in third, Klay misses a wide-open three in transition that would have cut the lead to 8.
Oklahoma City pulls away again. Westbrook drives right by Klay, then when help comes, he drops to Nick Collison for an easy layup. 69-84.
Klay actually makes a nice move to drive and get by Durant. But he loses the ball out of bounds. This, no doubt, is the area where Klay needs the most work.
He sits with 56 seconds left in the third, Warriors down 74-88.
Maybe the most interesting “Klay Moment” for me in this game was when Klay skipped back into the game, looking pumped up and excited with 9:03 left in the fourth and the Warriors down 81-99. I actually liked his enthusiasm. He’s ready to come back in and lead the Warriors back from 18 down.
His excitement works – for a moment.
Right away, he curls off a screen and Curry makes a nice pass to Klay for an easy layup. On the play, Klay smartly read the defense. As he came off the screen from Carl Landry, he cut behind Collison, instead of around him. This left him wide open in the lane. 83-99 with 8:50 left and Klay has 13 points.
Oh no. Klay plays too far off Martin again and Ibaka finds him for an open three. 83-104 at the 8:09 mark. That pretty much does it.
But Klay doesn’t quit. He cuts back door after passing to Lee and Lee finds him for an open reverse layup. 85-106.
At the 6:15 mark, he pump fakes Jackson on a three, then dribbles once and steps in for a jumper. 87-106. 17 points for Klay.
Later, he hits a beautiful turnaround jumper (I mean, this was a really nice shot) on both Jackson and Martin, but this game is over.
Mark Jackson clears the bench with 4:18 left down 91-113.
Really? I have to summarize this? I mean … I … I … I don’t know.
Klay looks great. Klay looks awful. Klay looks good. Klay looks bad.
It was a mixed bag. A bag that had a bunch of Klay stuff thrown into it, was violently shaken and dumped onto the court. What was displayed was a mix of great shots, bad forced shots, nice passes, ugly passes, bad defense, good defense, dumb plays and a repeat of those dumb plays which I would call dumber plays.
That’s all I got, man. You tell me.