Reader’s Note: Beginning January 29, WarriorsWorld spent 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 provided 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 eighth and final installment covers the game vs. Houston on February 12.

Previous Klay Watch Games

Game #1 – Cleveland, January 29

Game #2 – Dallas, January 31

Game #3 – Phoenix, February 2

Game #4 – Houston, February 5

Game #5 – Oklahoma City, February 6

Game #6 – Memphis, February 8

Game #7 – Dallas, February 9

By: Jesse Taylor

Warriors 107, Houston 116

On a night when Andrew Bogut called the Warriors defense “horseshit,” Klay Thompson may have actually played the best defensive game of his career. Which is saying something, because Klay is a good defender.

This was without a doubt his best all-around game of the eight in “The Klay Watch” series. Not only did he play outstanding defense on James Harden, one of the NBA’s most difficult matchups, he was also out to prove that he can finish at the rim.

Let’s start with a play-by-play rundown of Klay’s defense.

He starts on Chandler Parsons. On the Rockets’ second possession, Parson dribbles by Klay and gets in the lane. Bogut helps and David Lee sags in, leaving Patrick Patterson open for a made jumper off a Parsons pass. Not a great start on defense for Klay.

Klay is now guarding Harden, and will for most of the night.

In transition, Klay has to pick up Jeremy Lin. Harden drives in the lane and gets a 3-point play off a Bogut foul.

Later, Klay is guarding Harden when Lin falls and loses the ball. It looked as if Klay could have went down and at least forced a jump ball, if not stolen it. But he chose to stay close to Harden. Lin gets it back and passes to Parsons for a drive and layup to give the Rockets a 9-8 lead. A robotic reaction on this play from Klay who refused to leave his man.

Harden drives on Klay, who plays excellent defense. He may have tipped it away on Harden’s shot and it goes out off Warriors.

With under six minutes left in the first quarter, Harden hits a tough step-back three on Klay. Great shot. Cuts Warriors lead to six at 21-15.

On the next possession in transition, Klay closes out on Harden, who pumps and goes around Klay. He gets in the lane and draws a foul on Lee. Hits both FTs. 21-17 after five straight for Harden.

After another Warriors miss, Harden drives on Jarrett Jack in transition. Klay helps and reaches in to force a steal. Jack, from ground, passes it to Steph Curry. Curry passes up court to Klay, who puts a move on Parsons to get the layup and the foul. Hits FT. 24-19. 3:57 left.

Klay stops Harden on a drive and Lee forces a second miss after Harden gets his own rebound. Omer Asik gets the rebound and is fouled in the act of shooting.

Klay again plays nice defense on Harden, but Harden drives and hits a tough step-back jumper with Klay’s hand in great position.

Klay sits to start the second. He checks in at 7:25 and the Warriors up 42-38.

Klay has good position on Harden near the free throw line but Bogut unnecessarily reaches in and commits the foul. The Warriors are in the penalty and Harden hits two FTs. 3:43 left in half and Warriors trail 47-49.

Harden hides from Klay behind Patterson and hits a jumper. Klay could have been more aggressive to get around Patterson. 53-55.

Iso for Harden, but Klay plays him very well and forces a turnover on the drive. Klay runs the floor and Jack finds him for a dunk off a 3-on-1 break. 37.3 left in half. 56-55.

With time running out in the half, Harden has the ball in transition and, from behind, Harrison Barnes runs into Harden for the awful foul Harden hits both FTs. 56-57 at the half.

Klay helps hold Harden to 4-15 shooting in the first half.

In the second half, Klay helps on Asik down low and disrupts his shot.

Later, Harden hits another difficult step-back jumper on Klay. 63-67.

With Harden out, Klay takes Lin. At 5:38, Lin drives by Klay, but he recovers well. As Lin drives to the basket, Bogut provides help and both Klay and Bogut block Lin’s shot at the rim. But Parsons gets the loose ball and gets a 3-point play. 69-75.

Note: Parsons is killing Barnes, who along with Curry and Lee, had an awful defensive game.

Jack commits a sloppy turnover and it leads to a Harden fast beak dunk. 75-82.

Klay sits with 1:10 left in third, 77-88. He has 22 points. We’ll get to his offense next.

He checks in with 8:56 left in game. 89-95.

He quickly makes an impact, playing great denial defense on Harden. When Harden does get the ball with the shot clock running down, Klay is tight on Harden and forces an air-ball three. Nice work there.

But Draymond Green comes in and Mark Jackson puts him on Harden. Not sure why when Klay has been playing him so well. Harden drives right by Green. Klay has to help off Parsons to foul Harden and save the dunk. After the two FTS, it’s 101-111 with 2:33 left.

After some screens, Curry and Klay switch and Curry picks up Harden, who recognizes the mismatch and drains a three over Curry. 101-114.

With the game basically over, Klay fittingly ends it with excellent defense on a Lin drive that misses and is the Rockets last shot of game.

Harden finishes with 27 points. Bad defense from Klay you say? Let’s see.

Harden shoots 7-22 FG (32%), 2-8 3FG and 11-11 FT.

But only two of those 11 free throws were due to Klay. The other nine came at the expense of other Warriors players. Four of his makes were on Klay, three of which were well defended by Klay – a step-back three and two step-back jumpers.  On the fourth, Harden snuck behind a Patterson screen that Klay didn’t fight through hard enough.

On five occasions against Harden, Klay’s defense either forced a bad shot or a turnover.

So against Klay, Harden had just 11 points (only two off free throws). Against other defenders (either in transition, or while Klay was out or guarding another player), Harden had 16 points from nine free throws, two 2-pointers and one 3-pointer.

Against other players, Klay also played solid defense. He twice shut down Lin and forced a miss on a drive. He also helped on Asik to force a miss. His one mistake was early in the game when Parsons beat him off the dribble.

Offensively, Klay made a great and impressive effort (based on previous games) to finish at the rim. To go from looking so bad to looking so good should give Warriors fans hope.

His 3-point wasn’t falling (1-5 3FG), so the fact that he scored 22 points is even more impressive. He typically relies on his outside shot to score, so imagine what he can do when it is falling and he has the added ability to finish at the rim.

Unfortunately, two of his missed threes game late in the game where they could have gotten the Warriors back in the game if they’d gone in. In fact, he went scoreless in nine fourth quarter minutes, but wasn’t involved in the offense outside of his two missed threes.

During the game, I counted 11 separate occasions where Klay aggressively made a play in the lane. Nine of those 11 drives led to something positive.

4 – Klay finishing at the rim

2 – Klay getting fouled for two free throws

2 – Turnover by Klay (one of which was in the final seconds and didn’t matter)

1 – Klay finishing and getting fouled

1 – Klay dishing for a made shot

1 – Klay dishing that led to a foul; then a basket off the ensuing inbounds play

Here are the details:

Curry drives and kicks to Klay at three. Parsons closes out well, so Klay drives in and gets fouled. 1-2 FT, his first free throws since Phoenix five games ago.

Curry gets to Klay for transition break. Klay goes right at, and over, Asik for an aggressive layup.

After a Warriors miss, Harden drives on Jack in transition. Klay helps and reaches in to force a steal. Jack, from ground, passes it to Curry. Curry passes up court to Klay, who puts a move on Parsons to get the layup and the foul. Hits FT.

Klay curls around a Jack screen to get a step on Parsons. He takes the ball at the top of the key and drives all the way in over Patterson for layup.

Off a screen, Klay gets the ball, passes up a jumper, drives in and attracts the defense. He kicks it out to an open Green who hits the jumper.

He doesn’t settle for a three, and drives passed Harden. He drops it to Bogut who is fouled. Off out of bounds play, Klay curls off a Lee screen, gets the ball from Curry and hits a wing jumper.

Iso for Harden, but Klay plays him very well and forces a turnover on the drive. Klay runs the floor and Jack finds him for a dunk off a 3-on-1 break.

After running off some screens, Klay hangs outside of the key while Bogut posts up. As soon as Bogut faces the rim, Klay sees an opening under the basket, cuts to it and Bogut finds him for a nice backdoor layup.

Klay leads a fast break, but is not in control and crashes into a stationary Lin in the key. Klay passes the ball out but it’s too late and he’s called for charging.

He passes up an open three and drives in. He gets a blocking call. 1-2 FTs. Was not really in control here, but I’ll take the aggressive move.

Under a minute left with the game over, Klay commits a turnover after getting stopped on a drive, cutting, losing his balance, tumbling to the ground and throwing the ball away.


One Response

  1. Joe Schmoe

    What was your observation when Klay comes in after a stretch and starts shooting.My gut feel says when he shoots after sitting on the bench, he cools off and struggles the rest of the game, when he takes it at the hoop, or gets a couple of set plays off screens, he seems to keep the hot hand.

    I have no way of saying this for sure, but he seems to follow that pattern more than anyone I can remember.