NBA Finals: Klay Thompson unfazed by shooting slump, happy to play defensive role for Warriors

The Golden State Warriors opened their third straight NBA Finals with a 113-91 drubbing of Cleveland Cavaliers, matching the record for most consecutive post-season wins (13). Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry put on a show in Game 1, with combined numbers of 66 points, 18 assists and 14 rebounds.

It was a near-perfect display by the Warriors and their 31 assists against just four turnovers highlighted how well they were passing the ball. Perhaps the only disappointment for the 2015 champions was Klay Thompson’s shooting performance.

Kyrie Irving (2) tries to drives against Klay Thompson (11) during Game 1 of NBA Finals. AP

Kyrie Irving (2) tries to drives against Klay Thompson (11) during Game 1 of NBA Finals. AP

The Warriors guard scored only six points, and went a measly three of 16 overall in 36 minutes while missing all five from behind the arc. This was only the second time in the post-season that Thompson failed to hit a three. However, he isn't too worried about his shooting slump.

“It’s not a big deal at all. If I score six points and that wins us four games and the NBA Championship, I can do that every year. I am not about getting numbers, I am not about getting the gaudy stats. End of the day, if you win your last game, you had a great season,” Thompson said in a media interaction on Friday.

Since Durant's move to Golden State, Thompson’s offensive contribution has become less important but it’s his defence that has made the team such an unbeatable machine. His defensive skills were a major factor for their thumping victory — according to ESPN, Cavaliers players shot one for 12 when Thompson was the primary defender. The only exception was when Kyrie Irving hit an off-balance three-pointer while getting fouled.

And Thompson is more than happy with the change in roles. Thompson played a mixed role in Game 1, watching Irving and at times defending against LeBron James, Kevin Love and JR Smith.

“I was just trying to play possession by possession. I was happy with my performance on that side of the ball, being locked in defensively. It didn’t matter who I was guarding, I was trying to make it tough on them just to get a good look. It might be an adjustment for me, but it’s for the betterment of the team and I am willing to do it,” he told reporters.

Durant further elaborated on how Thompson’s defence helps the Warriors play as a better team. “His movement off the ball is one of the main reasons why we're a good team. And his defence is the reason why we we're one of the best defensive teams in the league as well.

"So when he's not shooting the ball, that doesn't take him out of his game, that doesn't lower his confidence. He just continues to keep shooting and stay aggressive on both ends of the floor,” Durant said on Saturday during his media availability.

Thompson was also all praise for Durant and credited him for their stunning 13-0 run in the post-season.

“Last year’s playoffs felt like a war every game. This year we are 13-0 and playing at a really high level. I thought Kevin was great against the rim in the first game, in transitions, in the half court. I think the Cavs on Sunday will make a pointed emphasis to not letting him get so many easy attempts around the rim. We will have to help out, and knock some shots down from the perimeter, especially me.”

The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers and their defensive cracks were fully exploited by the Warriors’ offensive juggernaut. Cleveland’s bench also failed to provide any support, with the seven reserves who played combining for a miserable six of 24 from the field. They managed only 21 points, 16 rebounds and twice as many turnovers (four) as assists.

But Thompson knows all too well that they cannot rest on the laurels of Game 1. “We know Cleveland are going to play better. They are obviously trying to get to the ball as much as possible and I expect them to play even more physical on Sunday. Thursday was a great game but it almost means nothing if we lose on Sunday. But I know if we put in the same defensive effort collectively, we will be really tough to beat,” a confident Thompson said.

“I wish I was shooting the ball much better. Hopefully, we make a few more of the shots on Sunday night and win by 30 instead of 20,” he signed off.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2017 16:38 PM

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