Klay Thompson Scores 17 Points in 1st Game Since 2019 as Warriors Beat Cavaliers

Doric SamJanuary 10, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 9: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 9, 2022 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

In a battle between the NBA's best defenses, the Golden State Warriors came away with a 96-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Stephen Curry led the way with 28 points as Golden State improved to 30-9.

Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, who was active for the first time in over two years, scored 17 points in 20 minutes in his return. It was his first appearance in 941 days since he suffered a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals and a torn Achilles in the 2020 offseason.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Klay's intro.<br><br>Chills ❄️ <a href="https://t.co/rBuCz6T6bZ">pic.twitter.com/rBuCz6T6bZ</a>

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KLAY THROWS IT DOWN.<br><br>OH MY. <a href="https://t.co/7EvT1zrAAH">pic.twitter.com/7EvT1zrAAH</a>

The Cavaliers fell to 22-18 after their fifth loss in their last seven games. Lamar Stevens led Cleveland with 17 points. The Cavaliers entered the game allowing an average of 102.5 points, which trailed only the Warriors (101.4).

Notable Stats

G Stephen Curry, GSW: 28 points

G Klay Thompson, GSW: 17 points

C Kevon Looney, GSW: 6 points, 18 rebounds (career high), 4 steals

F Lamar Stevens, CLE: 17 points

Thompson Not Shy in Long-Awaited Return

From the start of the game, the Warriors made a concerted effort to get the ball into Thompson's hands. And despite a layoff of two-and-a-half years, he did not shy away from getting shots up. Golden State ran a set play at the beginning of the game to get him his first bucket.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

KLAY WASTING NO TIME πŸ”₯ <a href="https://t.co/5EPGt6tYnR">pic.twitter.com/5EPGt6tYnR</a>

Thompson seemingly took a shot every time he touched the ball. Even though he shot a low percentage by hitting just three of nine field goals in the first half, the more important thing was his getting into rhythm. Curry's hot start, in which he netted 18 of his 28 points before halftime, surely took some pressure off him.

For his part, Thompson looked comfortable and showed no ill effects from his previous injuries. He displayed the confidence and aggression in hunting shots that we're used to seeing from him.

Connor Letourneau @Con_Chron

Late in the second quarter, Klay Thompson beat his man off the dribble, and threw down a one-handed dunk over two defenders. Wow. Needless to say, his explosiveness doesn't seem to be too affected by that Achilles surgery.

Warriors on NBCS @NBCSWarriors

Like he never left πŸ’¦ <a href="https://t.co/I3LFVvMT4a">pic.twitter.com/I3LFVvMT4a</a>

Connor Letourneau @Con_Chron

Feels pretty fitting that Klay's first made 3-pointer in 941 days marked his 12,000th career point.

It looked like Thompson settled down during the break and got his feet under him in the third quarter. He opened the frame with seven quick points to ignite the home crowd at the Chase Center. It looked just like old times when he splashed a transition three-pointer.

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Here's Klay Thompson's hot start to the third quarter<br>-Pick-and-pop action with Curry, baseline jumper fading left<br>-Created separation with right foot (same as Achilles tear) for jumper over Markkanen in iso setting<br>-Vintage transition 3 <a href="https://t.co/zcxjIrDQie">pic.twitter.com/zcxjIrDQie</a>

Connor Letourneau @Con_Chron

After hitting his 1,800th career 3-pointer, Klay Thompson goes to far corner and screams toward crowd. There's several moments from tonight that could stand the test of time.

Thompson returned in the fourth quarter and flashed the smothering defense he was known for with a nice block on Cavaliers power forward Lauri Markkanen. He drained another triple before exiting to a standing ovation. He finished with 18 shot attempts in 20 minutes.

Golden State Warriors @warriors

JP with the denial<br>KT with the SPLASH<br><br>πŸ“Ί <a href="https://twitter.com/NBCSAuthentic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBCSAuthentic</a> <a href="https://t.co/mnT77xzWRo">pic.twitter.com/mnT77xzWRo</a>

Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater

Klay Thompson's final line tonight: 17 points on 7-of-18 FG in 20 minutes. Made three of his eight 3s. Almost all his misses were short. The traffic dunk was a welcome back moment. Held up defensively.

John Dickinson @JDJohnDickinson

Warriors improve to 30-9 w/win over Cavs in Klay Thompson's return.<br><br>17 points (7-for-18 FG, 3-for-8 from 3)<br>3 rebounds<br>1 assist <br><br>Glimpses of the old Klay including not being bashful getting his shots up. 18 attempts in 20 min (only Curry had more 21 FGA in 36 min)

A one-game sample size is hard to judge, but Sunday's performance indicates that it will not take Thompson long to get back to his old form. He will get all the shooting opportunities he was accustomed to prior to his injuries, and he will eventually start converting at a more efficient rate.

If he remains healthy, it's safe to consider the Warriors favorites to compete for the NBA title this season.

Cavaliers Get Beat Inside Despite Oversized Lineup

Cleveland is a rare team in today's guard-centric NBA considering that it usually features three players on the floor who are taller than 6'10". Despite the size advantage, the Cavaliers got dominated on the glass throughout Sunday's contest.

Cleveland entered the game ranked eighth in the league in rebounding differential, but the team didn't finish possessions well against Golden State. The Warriors pulled down 12 offensive rebounds in the first half for 16 second-chance points.

The Cavaliers were not able to take advantage of the absence of Draymond Green, who started the game to support Thompson but didn't play after the opening tip because of a calf injury.

Cleveland's defense is strong enough to keep most games competitive. Even with holding Golden State to 23.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc, the Cavaliers found themselves down by as many as 24, and it was because the Warriors constantly took advantage of second-shot opportunities. Golden State center Kevon Looney was an absolute menace on the glass with 18 rebounds.

Due to not closing out defensive possessions, the Cavaliers couldn't get out in transition as much as they usually do. They cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth quarter but didn't get any closer. In total, they allowed the Warriors to grab 22 offensive rebounds and win the battle of the boards 54-42.

Cleveland will not be happy when it reviews the film from Sunday's game. The team's defense was good enough to stifle the Warriors, but its effort on the boards left much to be desired. The Cavaliers cannot get outworked like they did Sunday if they hope to compete against the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

What's Next?

The Warriors will begin a four-game road trip Tuesday vs. the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavaliers will play the third matchup of their six-game road trip against the Sacramento Kings on Monday.