Warriors not worried about Klay Thompson’s shooting slump as long as he keeps defending

Associated Press
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OAKLAND — The Finals did not shake Klay Thompson out of his shooting slump. In Game 1 he was 3-of-13 from the field for six points and he missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Nobody on the Warriors much cares — and not just because they won Game 1 in a rout anyway. It’s because Thompson is doing what every coach from YMCA youth leagues up through the NBA preaches — if you’re not scoring points, contribute in other ways. For Thompson, that is defense: Cleveland players guarded by Thompson shot 1-of-12 in Game 1, according to ESPN.

Thompson himself will take that tradeoff.

“If I score six points a game and it gets us four wins and an NBA championship, I can do that every year,” Thompson said.

His shooting slump goes back to the San Antonio series, and even beyond. Thompson is shooting 29 percent over his last five games. The best way to understand it is to look at his shot chart from the last five games.

A lot of fans want to attribute the struggles to the fact Kevin Durant is now on the team, so Thompson has slid down the offensive pecking order in Golden State. Nobody with the team is buying that.

“He averaged more points this year than last year, he averaged more shots, so I think we always look at the last game or the last week, but I don’t feel the need to overreact to any of it,” Warriors GM Bob Myers said. “I told him to have fun, it’s the NBA Finals…

“He’s a great shooter. It’s like a hitter with a great swing, they’re gonna start hitting. I’d tell him don’t change anything, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Thompson is doing just that. He was asked how his approach to Game 2 will differ from Game 1.

“Same one I had Game 1 — just be aggressive, don’t settle for good shots but hunt for great shots,” Thompson said. “Try to get a few quick ones early; that always helps. That’s about it. Just play hard and I’ll be fine.”

When Thompson missed a couple he would normally make to start a game, he starts to hunt twos at times and takes more difficult ones than he needs. He’s a shooter, trying to shoot his way out of the slump. But the Warriors can live with that because of everything else he brings to the court.

“Well, if he’s not making shots, he’s still a respected shooter and nobody’s going to give him open shots if he starts to miss,” Kevin Durant said. “So we know the gravity he pulls when he’s out there, and his movement off of the ball is one of the main reasons why we’re a good team. And his defense is the reason why we’re one of the best defensive teams in the league as well.”

“The most important thing is the way he’s defending,” Draymond Green said. “We have enough guys who can score on this team that if one guy can’t get it going, we can go other places. Then our ball movement and our flow allows everyone else to get baskets as well. We’re not just going to say, `Oh, man, we really need to get Klay going.”‘

The Cavaliers should be worried if Thompson gets going — on a team loaded with some of the greatest shooters in the game, nobody gets as white hot for a quarter or a half as Thompson. He is capable of insane numbers.

“He’s very competitive, but he doesn’t show it like Draymond shows it,” Myers said. “His personality is to hold himself to a high standard, he’s kind of a perfectionist, but at the same time his perfection is he wants to play well for his teammates… his demeanor is he just wants to win, but he wants to do well, everyobody does.

“I think he’s focused more on our record than his own statistics. I know he wants to do better, but we’re not really worried about it.”

“Well, it is easy to overlook my shooting woes when we have been winning like this,” Thompson said. “So if we keep this up, it’s great, I can live with this all day. But I’m such a perfectionist, I try to hold myself to such a high standard that, as a competitor, sometimes it does drive you a little to the edge to be better. But you just have to keep everything in front of you.”

Watch Deandre Ayton put up 29 points, 21 rebounds, lead Suns past Jazz 113-112

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PHOENIX (AP) — There was much debate during the NBA offseason about whether Deandre Ayton was worth a max contract.

On nights like Saturday, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ayton notched season highs with 29 points and 21 rebounds, Devin Booker added 27 points and the Phoenix Suns held on for a hard-fought 113-112 win over the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz led 81-78 after three quarters, but the Suns pushed ahead 99-93 by midway through the fourth. The game remained tight through the final minutes, but Phoenix never lost the lead. On top of Ayton’s scoring and rebounding, he also had a crucial steal in the final minutes that helped thwart a final Jazz rally.

“I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving,” Booker said. “I should have been over there.”

Ayton grabbed his 21st rebound of the game on the final possession, securing Booker’s miss off a 3-pointer to keep the Jazz from a final possession. Ayton signed a four-year, $133 million deal during the offseason after the Suns matched an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers.

“That young man has been coming to the gym at crazy hours, lifting with (coaches), so that he can be prepared for moments like this,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s just good to see the work pay off. It’s good to see him have monster games against really good teams on a back-to-back. That’s pretty impressive.”

Ayton was the first player to have at least 28 points and 20 rebounds in a game for the Suns since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. He shot 11 of 19 from the field and added three assists and two blocks.

“I want to do more, I feel like I can do more,” Ayton said. “I’m just trying to do what I can to contribute to my team.”

Curiously, the Jazz didn’t foul the Suns on their final possession, essentially allowing them to run out the clock. Utah coach Will Hardy said the last play simply didn’t unfold like the team expected and there was some miscommunication.

“We wanted to get the ball out of Booker’s hands, and then foul,” Hardy said.

Ayton scored a season high for the second straight night. He poured in 28 points against the Pistons in a 108-102 win on Friday. Booker had a tough night shooting, making just 8 of 27 shots.

Utah was one of the NBA’s surprise teams in the first few weeks of the season, starting with a 10-3 record. The Jazz are just 3-7 since that point.

“One game, one stretch of the season doesn’t define your season,” Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. “You’ve got to go through ups-and-downs. Adversity – learn from it and come out the other side better for it.”

The Suns have an 11-1 record at home this season and have won four straight games.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points for the Jazz. Collin Sexton added 20 while Lauri Markkanen had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Jazz had a 54-51 lead at halftime. Clarkson led the Jazz with 12 points while Ayton had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Watch Spurs Collins bloody Russell Westbrook with a foul, get ejected

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
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Jakob Poeltl was dominating the paint, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds in 10 minutes, and giving the Lakers serious trouble. Then he had to leave the game with a sore quad, meaning Zach Collins would get more run.

Collins was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Russell Westbrook that left the Lakers guard bloodied.

Collins plans to appeal the ejection he said after the game.

Collins will face a fine or suspension from the league, although he doesn’t have a history of this kind of foul, something the league takes into consideration. Westbrook also got a technical for going after Collins.

The Lakers went on to beat the Spurs 143-138, behind 39 points from LeBron James. It’s the second time the Lakers have defeated the Spurs in three days, the kind of wins over tanking teams the Lakers need if they are going to turn their season around.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

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Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.