SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson walked down the hall from the court to the Golden State Warriors’ locker room to the sound of fans shouting “Good game, Klay” and clapping their hands.
“That one felt good,” Thompson said, as he high-fived a few of the people along the way. As he entered the locker room, more whooping and hollering could be heard from just inside the door.
That was the reception for Thompson’s best game in over two years, putting up a season-high 38 points on 15-of-24 shooting, including eight 3-pointers, six rebounds and five assists in the Warriors’ 122-109 win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was the first game of this kind for Thompson since March 2019. But more importantly for the Warriors, it was Thompson’s best game in the past two weeks.
In the four games prior to Saturday night — two of which happened after he missed a pair of games with a general illness, and another two after resting on the front end of a back-to-back — Thompson averaged 34% shooting from the field and 23.3% from 3.
“Everybody makes a big deal about my shooting, man,” Thompson said as a smirk cracked across his face. “I mean, I’m not happy with how I was shooting but I know these nights are within me. I just know. I’ve done too many great things that players haven’t done before to doubt myself.”
“I’m sure it’s a relief,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. Just two nights prior to Thompson’s scoring outburst, Kerr had noted that he thought Thompson was forcing shots, factoring into his shooting slump. Thompson agreed.
“He’s so hard on himself and wants so badly to succeed,” Kerr said. “I thought he just let the game come to him early. He didn’t hunt shots. Over the past few games, he’s been taking tough ones early, which has kept him from getting into a rhythm. Tonight, he felt like he was taking better shots early. … You know Klay, once a couple go in, the tougher ones get a lot easier for him.”
Thompson went 8-for-12 on catch-and-shoot scenarios, where he says he’s at his best. He also went 11-of-18 on contested shots for 27 points.
The show Thompson put on was a microcosm of the Warriors’ overall night.
The entire team put on an offensive show, shooting 48.4% from the floor and 40% from 3. Like Thompson’s individual performance, the team’s high shooting numbers were rooted in improved shot selection and decision-making.
This was the area Kerr wanted to see improved more before Draymond Green returned from the back injury that has kept him out for over two months. It’s the part of the game, Kerr said, Green’s presence couldn’t change automatically. It’s something Golden State’s active players had to figure out on their own.
The decision-making started with Stephen Curry, who Kerr said before the game has been handling more typical point guard duties than ever before. Against the Bucks, that’s all Curry could do as they threw double- and triple-teams at him all night.
He finished with eight assists while scoring just eight points on 3-of-7 shooting. It’s the first time he has taken less than 10 field goal attempts since April 9, 2019, when he left the game after just 10 minutes.
“If they’re going to commit two to Steph, and [Thompson and Jordan Poole] are going, it’s gonna be tough to defend,” Kerr said.
Poole finished the night with 30 points. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins added 21.
“I don’t think a player sees as many triple- and double-teams as Steph,” Thompson said. “It opened up my game a lot. And I appreciate him for the gravity he takes when he’s on the floor. It just allows so many great looks for the other guys, which would be anybody but Steph.”
The Bucks’ focus on Curry provided Thompson with the perfect opportunity to snap himself out of his funk and put the Warriors in a good position to welcome Green back Monday.
“I was eager for a night like this,” Thompson said. “It was a great boost in our confidence, in my confidence. I really wanted 40 points. Thirty-eight is great, but 40 just sounds better. Whatever. It was a fun night at the office.”