Klay Thompson finally ‘breaks the seal’ as Warriors salvage near-catastrophic homestand with win over Rockets
Written by CBS SPORTS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on November 21, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO — As the final buzzer sounded, Steph Curry walked off the Chase Center floor, his arms raised triumphantly — and perhaps semi-sarcastically.
“We hadn’t had good energy walking off this floor in a while,” Curry said after the game. “We needed this one for sure.”
A late-November win over a .500 team hasn’t traditionally been much cause for celebration for the Golden State Warriors over the past decade, but this one — a 121-116 victory against the Houston Rockets — deodorized a losing “stink” that Curry warned could infiltrate the locker room if things weren’t rectified quickly.
Warriors Ground has long been a safe space for Golden State. Even last season, when they couldn’t win a game on the road to save their lives, the Warriors only lost eight home games all year. All the more reason why their recent skid — six straight losses, five of which came at Chase Center — seemed even more perplexing, and led to a sense of urgency on Monday unmatched so far this season.
Head coach Steve Kerr played Curry for the entire fourth quarter. He played 38-year-old Chris Paul for 34 minutes, just two nights after he had logged 37 in a loss to the Thunder. Curry was his normal, brilliant self, scoring 32 points on 14 shots. Paul, meanwhile, rewarded Kerr and the team with 15 points and 12 assists, committing only one turnover and finishing as a game-best plus-12.
“You lose that many games in a row, you forget what it feels like to win,” Paul said. “So, we just tried to play with a sense of urgency tonight and see if we could come out on top.”
The motto of the current Warriors dynasty, starting with the first title team back in 2014-15, is “Strength in Numbers.” Well, for most of the 2023-24 season, it’s been more like “Strength in Number” — and that number is 30.
30, as in the number on the back of Curry’s jersey.
30, as in the number of points No. 30 turns in on a nightly basis. Well, 30.4 to be exact.
Golden State has been desperate to get offensive production from anyone outside of Curry for the entire season, with Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and even Paul for a time, all suffering through painful shooting slumps. In order for the team to snap out of its haze on Monday, it needed those numbers to regain their strength.
Thompson started off hot, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter, one of which epitomized the beautiful basketball that’s become a trademark of Kerr’s brand of offense: Seven passes, four players touching the ball, all working the defense until it finally had no option but to relent.
“That’s the blueprint,” Kerr said of the possession. “But in order for that to happen, Klay has to get off the ball when he’s not open, rather than try to beat this guy one-on-one and take a difficult fadeaway. So, that’s what we’re focusing on. And, you know, if he does that consistently, then the game is going to open up for him.”
Thompson finished with his first 20-point game of the season on 5-of-11 3-point shooting. Though he was quick to point out that he’s scored more than 20 points in a single quarter before (he holds the NBA record with 37 points in a quarter), he admitted that Monday’s outburst could be the turning point of a season that’s started slow, like many others in his career.
“Feels great,” Thompson remarked. “And, hopefully, breaks the seal for many floodgates to open.”
Wiggins didn’t shoot well (3-for-10), but he knocked down two of his three 3-point attempts and tied a season-high with seven rebounds — often a bellwether for his level of activity and engagement — while holding Houston guard Fred VanVleet to 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
On top of Paul, Thompson and Wiggins, the Warriors also received contributions from Dario Saric (18 points, five rebounds off the bench), Moses Moody, Jonathan Kuminga and rookie Brandin Podziemski. They’re going to need to see it on a more consistent basis, but getting a complete offensive performance was essential for the Warriors to emerge from what Thompson called a “dreadful time.”
If there’s a silver lining from the losing streak, it’s that they didn’t fall to any bad teams. The Nuggets, Cavaliers, Timberwolves and Thunder are all expected to be in the upper echelon of their respective conferences, and they served as a barometer of sorts for Golden State.
The verdict? Improvement is necessary if a championship is the goal.
“There’s great teams all up and down the Western Conference, and you’re gonna have to play really well to beat them,” Curry said. “We know we can — if it comes to a playoff series down the stretch, I feel like we can beat anybody. But it’s gonna require an A, A-plus effort. It’s in there, but we have be able to do it.”