The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 96-82 on Sunday. Yet, this was a rare regular-season game where the result meant far less than the moment. This was Klay Thompson’s first NBA basketball game since the 2019 NBA Finals. After two years of difficult rehab through two major injuries, Thompson was back on the floor. Obviously, the Dubs are happy it resulted in a comfortable win, but even if they were on the wrong side of the scoreboard, this still would have been a magical moment for the franchise and its fans.
WHAT A MOMENT KLAY IS OFFICIALLY BACK pic.twitter.com/lgBTPcLOUe— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 10, 2022
The stakes will eventually come. When the regular season nears its conclusion, Golden State will surely be jostling with the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and maybe another team, like Denver or Memphis, for home-court advantage and a more favorable postseason schedule. Once the postseason starts, championship expectations will overtake any sentimentality around the Warriors. Every Dubs game will matter. Every loss will be a source of frustration. But none of that was relevant on Sunday.
Thompson was understandably aggressive early. He made the Dubs first field-goal attempt of the game, and got Chase Center rocking, before missing his next four shots from the field. Klay was far from the only Warrior struggling offensively early. Luckily, Stephen Curry broke out of his extended slump in impressive fashion.
Curry scored 14 points in the first quarter on 4-for-5 shooting from the field (all from three). Despite no other Warriors hitting a three in the first quarter, Golden State still led 24-21 at the end of the first quarter.
Thompson’s second quarter went better than his first. Kerr reinserted the shooting guard as the first half came to an end. Thompson might have had the highlight of the season.put up the
OMG KLAY pic.twitter.com/2iD3h6mgyC— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 10, 2022
Just a few minutes later, the Cavaliers left him open on the left-wing, and he knocked in his first three of the game (which also gave him 12,000 career points).
Like he never left pic.twitter.com/I3LFVvMT4a— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) January 10, 2022
If that was all Klay gave us, that would have been a successful return. However, Thompson’s performance was more than just a couple of highlights. After an inefficient first half, he found his rhythm in the third quarter, knocking in multiple contested midrange jumpers and another three. Another impressive sign that he could once again be a significant contributor sooner than expected.
Thompson set the tone for an explosive third-quarter for the Warriors, which pushed their lead to 79-60 heading into the fourth. The Cavaliers mounted several small runs throughout the fourth quarter to keep the Dubs from pulling their starters, but Cleveland never cut their deficit to single digits.
Jordan Poole’s 14 points and Kevon Looney’s 18 rebounds, including 9 offensive, highlighted the rest of the Warriors' contributions, but Sunday’s win was led by the Splash Brothers. Curry finished with 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists on 10-for-21 shooting while Thompson needed just 20 minutes to score 17 points.
The Warriors improved to 30-9 on the season and are now tied with the Suns for the best record in the NBA. They travel to Memphis to play the Grizzlies at 4:00 PM PST on Tuesday, January 11th.
Do you want to talk more about the Warriors and Klay’s return? Go join Marc Delucchi over on Twitch in his postgame stream: