Sitting on the bench long after the crowd had cleared out of Chase Center, his head draped in a towel, Klay Thompson battled his emotions.
His return from two devastating injuries and a 2 1/2-year layoff could happen next month. He has recently been cleared for five-on-five play.
But it still doesn’t erase the pain of the past 30 months. That was clear as Thompson sat on the bench 20 minutes after the final horn Friday night, a picture that stood in stark contrast to another Warriors victory, their 17th in 19 games this season.
“Two-plus years is a long time,” Stephen Curry said. “Going into this particular season and him getting closer to getting back on the floor kind of predicted that this would be the hardest part of his journey. We’re talking weeks instead of months now. Super proud of his approach.”
Coach Steve Kerr sympathizes with Thompson, who will turn 32 in February.
“I try to put myself in his shoes,” Kerr said. “The good news is he’s nearing the finish line, but he can’t help but think how much he’s lost the last couple of years. Not being able to play and be part of the team the way he wants to. It’s been pretty emotional for him.”
More observations from the 118-103 victory over the Portland Trailblazers::
Portland’s defense Curry wasn’t something he hasn’t seen before. Granted, it was more aggressive than in recent seasons but nothing out of the ordinary for most of the game.
“We see blitzes all the time. So we know how to handle it,” Curry said. “It’s about making the right decisions, quick decisions and good spacing. Honestly, it’s a hard way to play defense for 48 minutes, so you kind of just stick with the program and over time, good looks will happen.”
It could be said that the Blazers cracked for a stretch in the first and second quarters. Blazers coach Chauncey Billups put Tony Snell on Curry with no help whatsoever. The result? Curry blows by the big for four points late in the first and a few more baskets and looks in the second
. The Blazers left the weak side exposed, and Curry capitalized by driving to the basket and scoring in the paint.
While single coverage is a brave strategy, it’s not as if the Blazers had a choice. Jordan Poole can make defenses pay when he slashes and drives to the paint. Andrew Wiggins has dialed up his intensity on offense, so Portland had to account for him. Draymond Green can’t be completely ignored offensively anymore. With capable scorers on the floor, the Blazers had no alternative but to deploy single coverage for Curry. The real question, however, is why the Blazers deployed Snell instead of someone such as Gary Trent, Jr. or Robert Covington?
Separation in the Second
The Warriors withstood a Portland charge at the start of the second quarter, but a 16-2 run to finish the quarter put them up by 14 at halftime. Golden State’s defense locked down and locked in. As always, defense turned into offense. The Warriors scored 17 points off of seven Portland turnovers in the half. Curry and Poole traded threes while adding more points in the paint. In addition to the Warriors’ defense, their commitment to split action on offense was a factor. It’s what helped them jump out to a 20-point lead in the second.
“We had a good stretch near the end of the game,” Kerr said. “Obviously, it’s tough guarding Steph off of those splits. You just got to figure out ways to score when you’re struggling a little bit.”
Wiggins/Green Budding Chemistry
Close to the middle of the third quarter, Green found Wiggins for the lob to push the Warriors’ lead to 20. For many games, Green and Wiggins have been developing strong chemistry in pick-and-roll situations. When Thompson returns, this combo will become even more potent since Thompson’s presence will open up more spacing for more pick-and-roll opportunities.