Thompson helped to carry the weight of the team on both offense and defense to pull the Warriors into the Western Conference finals, while Curry was forced to watch from the sideline due to a knee injury. And Curry, well aware of Thompson’s impact, didn’t hold back in praising his teammate.
”Oh, wait, I've got to say one thing, though: Klay was in here earlier,” Curry said. “That dude had the best series I think I've ever seen him play on both ends of the floor,” Curry said of Thompson's scoring and defense against Damian Lillard.
”Defending Dame, exhausting all his energy to make it uncomfortable for him, and what he was able to do offensively, hopefully that doesn't get lost in our series and the way we played as a team. … Shout out to him for elevating his game on both ends of the floor. I had to say that. Thank you.”
This Warriors squad is a different one than we saw in last year’s postseason, not in the lineup necessarily but in confidence. After notching last year’s championship — the first for the franchise in 40 years — they’re not slowing up as they come closer to repeating the feat this season. That dominance is clear to other teams in the league.
”They're an amazing team. They've had an amazing season,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
The team on Wednesday night, which beat the Trail Blazers 125-121 to take the series in five games, wasn’t even the healthiest or strongest version of the Warriors we’ve seen all season. Now they prepare for a tough battle with Oklahoma City. With a newly-healthy Curry ready to start, this upcoming series is expected to see an even higher powered version of the Golden State offense. In the meantime, the team is enjoying the confetti and excitement of the last series’ win.
”It does feel different, but I expected it to,” Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said. ”Last year was the first time through for us, first time obviously getting to the Finals and winning a championship, and when you do that I think there's a deeper level of confidence that emerges and a better understanding of what it feels like when you lose and what it feels like when people are questioning you and critiquing you and things aren't going your way.”
Returning as a starter for the first time in the series, Curry dropped 29 points and sealed the win with a three in the final 30 seconds of the game. Thompson scored 33 points with seven 3-pointers. The performance came after Curry sat out the first three games of the series with a sprained right knee.
”It wasn't an individual thing when Steph went out,” Thompson said. ”We did it collectively and that's what you've got to do to make up for that. You saw tonight how many times he bailed us out and we obviously missed, yet so many guys stepped up and that will pay dividends for the rest of the playoffs.”
Regardless, the Warriors are not at a loss for health concerns. Besides Curry’s knee — which he insists will be fine — Draymond Green is nursing a left ankle and center Andrew Bogut sat out the second half of Wednesday’s game with a strained muscle in his right leg.
”Any time off is very much appreciated,” center Festus Ezeli said. ”Even Steph is coming back from his injury. Days off are very much appreciated and we also need the extra days to get some practice time and to tighten up some stuff, so it's going to be good for us.”
The series against Portland was not an easy one for Golden State, and although they came out on top 4-1, there was a high intensity to every game. But they handled last-minute clutch moments with cool, practiced patience, and the challenge was expected and predicted with Curry sitting on the bench. It begs the question — is this record setting, 24-0 starting, 73-win team better than they were when they clinched last year’s title?
”It's two complete different years. I wouldn't say we're better, we're more seasoned, so that may make us better because we've been through so much, the experience, I think makes us better,” Green said. ”We know how to handle things. We know how to stay poised. So I think if anything, that will make us better. Some guys have gotten better individually and when that happens you get better as a team.”
Right now, that’s not what’s important for the Warriors. All this team is focused on is turning their sights onto Friday’s game to continue this season’s success.
”West finals two years in a row,” Thompson said, ”It's been a special, special season.”
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