Steph Curry, Klay Thompson offer reminder who’s still NBA’s greatest show

Splash Brothers show they’re still the NBA’s greatest show originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

These aren’t the same Houston Rockets that Warriors fans were used to seeing time and time again in the playoffs. No longer is there a rivalry between the two Western Conference opponents. The elder of these Rockets, however, has seen it all between Houston and Golden State.

Eric Gordon has to be sick of the Warriors by now, especially Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors’ latest version of torture for the Rockets’ veteran guard came Sunday night in the Warriors’ 127-120 win at the Toyota Center.

With under a minute to go and the Warriors up by four points, Gordon guarded Curry tightly as can be. As Gordon has seen so many times before, sometimes there simply aren’t any answers to stopping Steph. With the shot clock winding down, Curry hopped behind the 3-point line and threw up a three that looked like it was about to kiss the ceiling.

Instead, it came splashing down through the nets. Game over, Curry says night night. Look at the Rockets’ bench. They all turned into Steph stans.

“That rainbow was just what he does, and it’s cool to hear the crowd react the way that they did,” Thompson said to reporters after the win. “Everyone comes for a show when the Warriors are in town, and I think he kind of solidified that showmanship with that shot. I was even like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible!'”

Even Curry was surprised by himself. The celebration was equally fun in the moment, and making fun of him and his teammates a bit.

“Nah, that was just because I surprised myself with that shot,” Curry said about his signature celebration. “More so with the celebration, the clock was going down — we were running out the clock, me and Draymond put our hands above our heads like we really won something. Just kind of making fun of our slow start out on the road, but it was a good win.

“… I like to have fun, too.”

What was even sweeter for Curry and the rest of the Warriors was the fact that the night didn’t belong to him. He was spectacular once again, no doubt there. For only the third time this season, Curry wasn’t the Warriors’ leading scorer. For the first time, the honor belonged to Thompson.

This was a vintage Klay Day. The Splash Brother was feeling it after leading the Warriors to their first road win of the season, after opening 0-8.

Too often, the joyous sharpshooter who is happiest on a basketball court, or out on the ocean, has traded his smile for frustrations this season. He came into the night averaging only 15.5 points while shooting a lowly 36.3 percent from the field and 33.6 percent on 3-pointers. He has grappled with the fact that he isn’t the same player who went to four straight All-Star Games before missing two-and-a-half seasons to a torn ACL and torn Achilles. But the four-time champion knows he’s capable of much more.

No matter how much Klay has wanted to clear the noise during his early-season issues, he has had trouble turning down the volume. He has heard the naysayers. He has seen the tweets.

In a moment of vulnerability, Thompson admitted Sunday that he let it all get to him. And he also made it clear that’s no longer going to happen.

“No, I don’t care anymore,” he said. “I really let the trolls get to me. Like, what am I doing, ya know. I just had a revelation where I was like, ‘Man, just be you and everything will play out.’

“Criticize me all you want, but I still know how great I am and what I’m capable of. I think real Warriors fans know that as well.”

On the same floor where Thompson made a whole lot of Texas enemies in the past, he sent everyone watching a stern message: I’m still Klay Thompson. Doubt me at your own risk. Watch what happens if you do.

Well what happened for the Rockets was watching Thompson score a season-high 41 points, going 14-for-23 from the field and 10-for-13 from long distance. Sunday night was the first time he scored more than 30 points this year and it was his first 40-plus performance. In one game alone, Thompson raised his field goal percentage almost three points, all the way to 39 percent. Plus his 3-point percentage moved up by more than four points to 37.7 percent.

Thompson’s 41 points tied the most he has scored since his two leg injuries, and his 10 3-pointers are his most since scoring 44 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 21, 2019.

The final triple that hit home was his pre-dagger to Curry putting the nail in the coffin.

It didn’t take long for Thompson to do damage to Houston’s defense. How fast? He scored 20 points in the first quarter, the 11th time he has scored 20 or more points in a quarter and fifth in the first.

Though this was only the third time Thompson has scored at least 20 points in a game this season, it was his second game in a row hitting that mark. He dropped 20 two nights ago in the Warriors’ win over the New York Knicks, and went 8-for-16 from the field for his first 50-percent shooting game of the year.

Led by Draymond Green, the Warriors held a team meeting the morning of the win against the Knicks and reaped the rewards. Draymond was as honest as possible to Thompson in that meeting, knowing it would be the best thing for his brother and the rest of the team. Now, Green is seeing the player who has been so great for so long.

“He’s being Klay Thompson,” Green said. “He is not worried about what happens with Klay, he’s worried about what happens with this team. When Klay worries about what happens with this team, Klay plays great and we win.

“I’ve always said he’s the most competitive guy that I’ve ever played with. And the most important thing to him has always been winning. At times, we all get away from who we are. In a brotherhood, you need somebody to bring you back to who you are. I have no doubt in my mind if it was me, he’d do the same thing.”

Out the gates the last two games, Thompson’s counterpart has made it a mission to get him going early. Curry assisted on the Warriors’ first five made shots in the last win. This time, he finished the first quarter — the same where Thompson put up a 20-spot — with seven assists. That’s one assist shy of his career high for a quarter.

Behind Thompson’s 20 points, the Warriors scored 40 in the first quarter. None were next to Curry’s name. He then scored eight in the second quarter and with the Warriors trailing at halftime, he gave Golden State 16 points in the third quarter. Steph and Klay each scored nine points in the fourth, giving Curry 33 points and 15 assists on the night.

Finding the perfect blend of facilitator and game-changing scorer, Curry had his second straight game with at least 20 points and 10 assists, sixth career game with 30 points and 15 assists and 11th game this season scoring at least 30 points. He crushed any last hopes Houston had, and he delighted more in talking about Thompson’s night more than anything else, with the two combining to score 74 points — the 17th time they’ve scored 70 or more points together.

“It all is connected,” Curry said. “How he started carried throughout the game because he got his confidence going. The ball was moving all over the court, finding the right guy.”

Much of the Warriors’ season thus far has been Curry’s teammates marveling at his mastery every game. Klay was happy to lend a hand this time.

“Steph has been going all season long, so it felt good to help him a little bit,” Thompson said. “It just felt good to have a big game. I’m my harshest critic. The first 10 games of the season weren’t easy for me.

“To come out and be myself again, it felt incredible. It’s just something for me to build on and to keep going.”

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With the critics put on mute and trolls back to being non-existent, Thompson gave himself and everybody else a reminder in Houston. Watching Steph and Klay go to work, though, has always been more special than any individual spectacle. It’s something that can’t be duplicated.

With a decade of making magic together, the Splash Brothers still are the greatest show in the NBA.