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Warriors’ Draymond Green on Klay Thompson: ‘Give that man his credit’ for playoff success

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green says there’s a direct correlation between the Warriors’ two-year playoff absence and the fact that Klay Thompson was sidelined with back-to-back career-altering injuries.

Thompson’s fierce competitive spirit — coupled with his immense talent as one of the best two-way players in the league — was a key component of the Warriors’ success during five straight trips to the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2019.

When Thompson made his highly anticipated return in January after tearing his left ACL in 2019 and rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Nov. 2020, there was skepticism as to whether he could regain elite form.

After 32 regular-season games and 12 playoff performances, Green believes it’s time that Thompson gets his due.

“From where he’s come from Jan. 9 to today is incredible. Being able to compete at this level and do it after what he’s gone through is amazing,” Green said after practice on Thursday, the team’s day off between Games 1 and 2 against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals.

“I’ve been seeing narratives like Klay’s been playing bad, and I actually leave the game like, ‘Man, he’s playing really good basketball.’ And so yeah, it really just goes to show me how people can only identify if you’re making or missing shots — because the game he’s been playing on the floor and impact at winning has been the same Klay I’ve always been battling with in the playoffs.”

Thompson is shooting at a more efficient clip in the postseason than he was in the regular season. In 12 playoff games, he’s averaged 19.9 points on 45.6% shooting and has converted on 40.2% of his 3-point attempts while grabbing 4.5 rebounds per game.

His scoring has been streaky at times. He was scoreless in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night, a game the Warriors ultimately won due to a collaborative effort to slow Luka Doncic and balanced contributions from Golden State’s players on offense. But Thompson ended the game strong, going an effective 7-of-his-last-9 from the field, good for 15 points.

After the game, Thompson said he was proud he shot 53.8% overall in the Warriors’ win.

“I never feel good when I go home and I shoot inefficiently; I was very happy with my shooting performance tonight,” he said. “Didn’t have a field goal in the first half, but that will never discourage me. I will always hunt my shot.”

Thompson knew the scoring would come eventually, but he said he’s still trying to get back to the level he was at defensively prior to his injuries. He took turns guarding Doncic with Andrew Wiggins and kept the Mavericks star scoreless when he was the primary defender, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

Still, Thompson sees room to improve defensively.

“It’s hard,” Thompson said. “Marking the best player every night for 40 minutes is not easy, and going to get buckets on the other ends, but it’s something I love to do. All the best two guards to ever play the game played both sides of the ball, whether it was (Michael Jordan), Kobe (Bryant) and (Dwyane Wade), guys I really idolized as a kid. They all competed on that side, so I just tried to follow the same mold.”

But Green doesn’t believe Thompson needs to prove anything.

“When he’s picked up guys that he’s needed to pick up, he’s guarded them well,” Green said. “He’s been defending well, he’s been rebounding well, he’s been boxing out, he’s been doing all the little stuff that non-basketball watchers or readers or analysts or whatever you want to call it … can’t see.”

Green pointed to Thompson’s scoring slump at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Thompson made only 11 of his first 53 3-point attempts to start that season. On Dec. 5, 2016, Thompson erupted for 60 points and made eight 3s.

“Was he working his way back then or was he just in the shooting slump? And now are we going to say, ‘Ah man, he’s still working his way back?’ No, give that man his credit for what he’s been doing on the basketball floor,” Green said. “He’s playing incredible basketball.”

But if Green had one complaint about Thompson’s game?

“It’s always that we can give you any easy shot you want and you don’t have to take a tough shot,” Green said. “But that’s Klay Thompson. He’s going to take tough shots and he’s going to make some tough shots and you’ve got to live with that.”

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