And that was for two very clear reasons: First, Klay Thompson returned to the court for the first time in two and a half years. And second, Klay Thompson looked good in his return to the court for the first time in two and a half years, prompting excitement at what it might mean for the team’s championship odds.
Because of all that, I’ll probably be a little generous with the grades today, because this teacher is very happy about the state of the Dubs. But grade away we must, weighting for our expectations of players.
7 seconds, 0 points, 1 foul, 0 plus/minus
Green’s role in the game was non-existent in terms of impacting the outcome. But it was one of the more special moments in a game full of them. Unable to play due to a minor injury, Green suited up anyway, unwilling to be off the court for the long-awaited return of his friend and decade-long teammate.
After the tip, Green immediately committed a foul (props to the Cavs for going along with all of this), and was subbed out of the game.
It was a sign of Klay’s importance and the Dubs’ culture that Green — who will see all of his per-game stats take a hit since playing seven seconds made it a game in the stat sheet for him — felt the desire to do this.
34 minutes, 10 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 foul, 3-for-9 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, +16
Wiggins is near the top of everyone’s list in terms of players they’re excited to watch now that Klay is back. How will he respond to having a lesser role on offense, as a true third option? Will his efficiency skyrocket now that he’s not just playing next to the greatest shooter in NBA history, but arguably the two greatest shooters?
It’s going to be fun to keep an eye on, and there are a lot of reasons to be very optimistic about what Wiggins will accomplish in a role that’s better suited for him. We didn’t get to see much of that on Sunday, but it’s still early days.
29 minutes, 6 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 3-for-6 shooting, 0-for-1 free throws, +19
An absolute gem of a game for Looney, who had the unenviable task of being Golden State’s only center as they faced a team that starts two of them. In 29 minutes Looney grabbed 18 rebounds — Kevin Love, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley combined for just 20 rebounds in 80 minutes (those three average, respectively, 12.6, 11.8, and 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes).
Add in some Draymondian stats in the rest of the columns, and it was simply a great day at the office for Golden State’s criminally underrated starter.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds.
37 minutes, 28 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 5 turnovers, 3 fouls, 10-for-21 shooting, 4-for-11 threes, 4-for-4 free throws, +23
Curry, who has been struggling lately, seemed energized by the return of his backcourt mate. After shooting just 2-for-19 on threes in his last two games, Curry came out of the gates firing with four made triples in the first quarter.
His impact was what we’ve grown accustomed to, rather than that of the last few games, with Golden State outscoring Cleveland by 23 points in his 37 minutes, and being outscored by nine points in the 11 minutes when he rested.
But mostly it was just so great seeing Curry and Thompson on the court together.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in points and plus/minus.
20 minutes, 17 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, 7-for-18 shooting, 3-for-8 threes, -2
The man of the hour/day/week/month. Klay was going to get a stellar grade here regardless of what he did on the court, but what he did was impressive. His jumper was gorgeous. He was fearless attacking the rim, driving and finishing in traffic on the first possession of the game, and later going full speed at the rim for a dramatic dunk. His defense was solid, his playful cockiness was on full display, and in the third quarter he briefly caught fire to make the arena rumble in a way that no one else — not even Curry — can quite replicate.
If we were grading on performance alone, in a vacuum, there would be some critiques to make. But we’re not. We’re grading on how confident Klay left us feeling that he’s still a star talent, and how great we felt watching him out there.
13 minutes, 0 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 0-for-5 shooting, 0-for-5 threes, -7
Bjelica is one of many Warriors who stands to benefit greatly from Klay’s return. The floor-spacing of Thompson should further open the floor for Bjelica, and give him even more open threes to take and make.
Unfortunately the making part was not on display Sunday.
25 minutes, 4 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 2 fouls, 2-for-9 shooting, 0-for-4 threes, +15
The shooting wasn’t good, but Iguodala looked so comfortable and happy playing alongside Thompson again. You can see how strong the connection is — on and off the court — between Thompson, Curry, Green, and Iguodala, and it just delights me.
Post-game bonus: Led the team in assists.
Otto Porter Jr.
20 minutes, 6 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 turnover, 3-for-9 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 0-for-1 free throws, -3
If I had to guess, there won’t be many games where Porter and Bjelica combine to shoot 0-for-8 from distance ... or 0-for-12 if you want to add Iguodala into that mix of savvy veteran bench spark plugs.
Still, like Iguodala, Porter did a lot of tremendous things ... shooting jumpers just wasn’t one of them.
19 minutes, 2 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 fouls, 1-for-3 shooting, 0-for-1 threes, +1
For all intents and purposes JTA was the starting power forward, as he replaced Green after the post-tip off foul. The stats aren’t the most impressive thing you’ll ever see, but my goodness was the defense sensational.
Gary Payton II
19 minutes, 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4 fouls, 4-for-5 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, -9
This game was a reminder as to how much I’m looking forward to these two things: watching GP2 and Klay form a defensive backcourt, and watching Payton’s improved stroke from distance look even better with the increased spacing (he’s shooting 41.8% from three-point range on the season).
Post-game bonus: Worst plus/minus on the team.
24 minutes, 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 6-for-12 shooting, 2-for-6 threes, +17
If Wiggins isn’t the player (not including Klay) you’re most intrigued to watch now that Thompson is back, Poole is. How will he do with the improved space? How will he adapt to a smaller role with fewer minutes off the bench, after spending most of the year to this point as the team’s starting shooting guard?
He got off to a good start in his first game alongside Klay, doing a little bit of everything, scoring efficiently, and adeptly leading the bench unit.
Sunday’s DNPs: Chris Chiozza, Jonathan Kuminga, Damion Lee, Moses Moody
Sunday’s inactives: Quinndary Weatherspoon, James Wiseman