Why Klay Thompson Will Decide Golden State Warriors’ Playoff Fate

May 6, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) drives to the basket as A defends Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the first half in game one of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the AT

Stephen Curry did not have a good game Wednesday. He scored 22 points (which is good) on 35 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent from downtown (which is not good, especially for him). Compare this to his performance in Game 1, where he scored 44 points on 51. percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc, a performance that is considered phenomenal in the regular season and unbelievable in the playoffs. This begs the question, how did the Warriors win Game 2 with Curry in a slump and when they blew a 16-point lead and lost Game 1 with him playing at superhuman levels? The answer is simple…

Klay Thompson.

Thompson posted huge numbers last night, scoring 34 points on 50 percent shooting and making 8 of his 9 three-point attempts. He rounded off his double-double performance with 14 rebounds, two assists and one block.

Thompson’s performance serves as a much greater indicator of the Warriors’ general performance than Curry’s. Consider the first half of Game 2, where the Warriors had established a 17-point lead by the half. The Washington State University product dropped 29 points on 57.9 (11-of-18) percent  shooting from the field,and an insane 87.5 percent from downtown on 8 attempts.

Now those who watched both Games 1 and 2 must have felt some déjà vu as play resumed for the second half of Game 2.

Thompson finished the night with 34 points, making 13 from the field on 26 attempts. You read that right. The 6’7’’ swingman only scored five points in the entire second half, despite playing for just a minute shy of the entire game. The Warriors 17-point lead at the half dipped to a meager six-point lead with only 6:00 left in the fourth.

At the now infamous four-minute mark, the Warriors only lead by six and it was only thanks to a few clutch shots from Curry and Jarret Jack that we did not have a repeat of Game One. What do both fourth-quarter runs by the Spurs have in common? Klay was either not in, or not playing well.

Klay attempted eight shots in the second half. He attempted and made one three-pointer and had one layup, but missed the other six of his attempts from the field, finishing 2-of-8 in the second half. Plus, the Spurs scoring off all but two of his misses.

Thompson’s single-digit scoring performance in the second half is intrinsically tied with the Spurs’ resurgence starting in the late third, and it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a relationship between Thompson’s play and the Spurs’ comebacks.

During the Playoffs, the Effective Field Goal Percentage of Warriors’ opponents has been nearly 7.2 percent higher when Thompson is not on the court, from 46.9 percent to 54.1 percent.

To give an example of the sophomore swingman’s defensive presence on the court, when he  fouled out with 3:57 left in regulation in Game 1, the Warriors were leading 104-89, and Tony Parker had been limited to just 14 points in the previous three-plus quarters. In the subsequent 3:57, Parker would score eight points and take the game to overtime, where the Spurs would eventually win. This proves that whether it’s on offense or on defense, Thompson is the Warriors’ key to beating the Spurs.

As the series progresses, people will look to Stephen Curry as the litmus test for our chances against the Spurs, as he is quite literally the poster boy for the team. But if you want to have a real approximation of the Warriors’ chances in a game, or how likely it is they gain and maintain a lead, look to Klay Thompson.

Topics: Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson, NBA, NBA Playoffs, San Antonio Spurs

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  • Joe

    Another great article!