How are the Warriors getting by without Stephen Curry? The other Splash Brosher has been tearing up the competition in the NBA playoffs.
Get all of Ben Leibowitz's columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
Throughout a record-setting 73-win season, reigning MVP Stephen Curry and versatile, Swiss Army-knife forward Draymond Green earned the bulk of the praise for the Golden State Warriors’ exploits—and for good reason.
Green continued to stake out a new power forward prototype with his ability to bring the ball up the floor and pass like a point guard, knock down three-pointers and defend all five positions—particularly in pick-and-roll situations.
Curry, of course, shattered his own record for three-point makes in a season by draining an astonishing 402 treys. He once again set himself up as the MVP frontrunner in the process, but fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson etched his name into the history books from deep as well. Take a look at Thompson's proficiency from 2015-16:
By converting 276 threes of his own, Thompson’s 2015-16 campaign trails only Curry’s MVP campaign from last year and the latest record-setting pace from this season. Now, with Curry sidelined due to a sprained knee suffered in the first round against the Houston Rockets, Thompson is commanding attention by leading the charge for the shorthanded Dubs.
In this week’s Data Dimes, the PointAfter team will take a look at the (relatively) unsung Splash Brother, and how his performances have kept the Warriors rolling without their best player.
From Game 4 against Houston (when Curry got hurt and played only 19 minutes) through Game 1 of the second-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Thompson has drained seven three-pointers in three straight games—a postseason record. No player had ever made seven or more threes in three straight playoff games prior to Thompson’s streak.
His barrage of triples guided Golden State to three consecutive wins, mostly without the benefit of Curry.
In Game 2 against Portland on Tuesday, Thompson struggled from the floor. He entered the second half with just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, but rebounded by scoring 20 points in the second half, erasing a 17-point deficit en route to another win.
Thompson finished with 27 points and made five three-pointers—including one with 6:44 remaining to tie the game, and another with 5:33 left to take the Dubs’ first lead. Unlike Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in Toronto, Thompson has continued to shoot the ball at a level comparable to his stellar regular season.
He’s shooting 44.2% from long range compared to 42% in the regular season, and his field goal percentage has remained steady. He’s done most of his scoring damage on three-pointers above the break and when finishing at the bucket.
Klay’s mid-range shooting has something to be desired, but when you’re as hot from downtown as Thompson is, the mid-range game doesn’t really matter that much.
…But He’s More Than Threes
Everyone’s aware that Thompson brings three-point shooting to the table. We’re talking about a guy who once got hot enough to score a league-record 37 points in one quarter. But Thompson’s postseason performances (especially sans Curry) have upped the ante to other categories.
Thompson’s points, rebounds and assists per game have all increased in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, provided the two-guard’s usage rate is up to 28.7% this postseason—a playoff career high and more than two percentage points higher than his usage rate during the season (26.3%).
It’s logical that Thompson's workload would increase without his fellow Splash Bro on the court working his magic. However, Thompson has never been much of a distributor (career 2.3 assists per contest), so the fact that he’s dishing out close to four dimes per game is noteworthy in itself.
Of course, scoring remains Thompson’s bread and butter. He was the game’s top scorer in Games 1 and 2 against Portland, holding home court against the Trail Blazers and building a 2-0 series lead without the team’s alpha dog.
The Warriors’ team play remains the most impressive part of their ability to keep cooking without Chef Curry, but Thompson’s fearlessness in big moments has been enormous. At this rate, Curry won’t have to rush back to the court. With a potential Western Conference finals matchup against the San Antonio Spurs looming, Curry needs all the recovery time he can get.
Thanks to the younger Splash Brother, the brilliant basketball in the Bay Area shows no signs of abating.