Warriors Among N.B.A.'s Best Even Without Klay Thompson

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Golden State is among the N.B.A.’s champion teams, adjacent without 1 of its champion players successful the injured Thompson. And it’s not conscionable due to the fact that of Stephen Curry.

With assistance   from Jordan Poole, left, and Draymond Green, Golden State is tied with Miami and Utah for the champion  grounds   successful  the N.B.A.
Credit...Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Nov. 4, 2021Updated 5:47 p.m. ET

There helium was connected the tribunal earlier a crippled successful San Francisco, dressed successful the azygous the remainder of his squad would deterioration to play that nighttime against the Charlotte Hornets — striped socks and all. Golden State defender Klay Thompson traveled astir the arc for respective minutes practicing 3-pointers.

He’s adjacent to a return. He tin consciousness it. His teammates tin consciousness it.

In the past fewer months, Thompson, sidelined for much than 2 years with 2 superior limb injuries, has been cleared to effort the types of movements he’ll usage successful games. These are the movements that helped him score 37 points successful a quarter oregon 60 points portion dribbling conscionable 11 times.

“Once helium got to that signifier it was similar a unreality lifted,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said.

Not conscionable for Thompson, for the full team.

They ended Wednesday’s crippled tied with the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat for the champion grounds successful the N.B.A., astatine 6-1. They did it by beating a thrilling young Hornets team, 114-92. While his teammates hold for Thompson, they’ve made definite they’ll beryllium poised arsenic a morganatic menace to triumph the Western Conference aft helium returns.

“We got a tally going connected truthful we’re conscionable trying to enactment with it,” said defender Jordan Poole, who scored 31 points and grabbed 4 steals connected Wednesday.

Poole has been a large portion of Golden State’s caller occurrence arsenic the team’s starting shooting defender successful Thompson’s absence. He has leaned connected Thompson and Stephen Curry for handling the ebbs and flows of being successful that position. Wednesday’s crippled followed a comparative shooting slump for Poole, who became nary little assertive done it. He changeable 16 3-pointers against the Hornets, making seven.

Golden State drafted Poole precocious successful the archetypal circular successful 2019, conscionable aft the past of its 5 consecutive trips to the N.B.A. finals, which resulted successful 3 championships — and conscionable aft Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament successful his near knee. And truthful began an antithetic rebuilding project.

Golden State fortified its roster with lottery picks portion it waited done Thompson’s genu wounded and a aboriginal wounded to Curry. Then Thompson tore his close Achilles’ tendon successful November 2020.

That month, Golden State selected James Wiseman with the 2nd wide prime successful the draft. He’s been unavailable this twelvemonth with an wounded arsenic well. Jonathan Kuminga, the seventh wide prime successful this year’s draft, has besides missed clip with an injury, delaying his development.

To apical it off, Curry wasn’t feeling good connected Wednesday, Kerr said.

For a portion the Hornets took vantage of immoderate sloppy play by Golden State. Kerr got caught pouting during the archetypal quarter.

Forward Draymond Green noticed and told him to subordinate up. The squad needed his energy.

“I was benignant of embarrassed,” Kerr told reporters aft the game, smiling astatine the thought. “After each the turnovers I was like, ‘Fine, fine, whatever.’ Acting similar they were connected their ain retired there. It was not my champion infinitesimal arsenic a coach.”

The squad has shown repeatedly this season, though, that it has developed capable extent to flooded challenges, self-created oregon otherwise.

That beardown antiaircraft show proved captious connected Wednesday. The Hornets entered the crippled arsenic the highest scoring squad successful the league, and Golden State held them nether 100 points. A dazzling young squad with 2 burgeoning stars successful LaMelo Ball (14 points and 8 assists connected Wednesday) and Miles Bridges (32 points and 9 rebounds) got a past acquisition successful the 3rd quarter. That’s erstwhile Golden State likes to present its kick.

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Credit...Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

When Golden State was dominating the league a fewer years ago, it didn’t substance what its opponents did successful the archetypal fractional — a third-quarter domination by Golden State would hide them.

The publication was a small spot antithetic connected Wednesday night.

Against the Hornets, Gary Payton II energized the squad with a memorable dunk, positive steals, blocks and deflections.

“This is what I’m present for,” helium said. “Just to travel successful and spark immoderate we request to spark connected the antiaircraft extremity and get america going. You cognize our offense, we tin bash anything.”

The lad of the Hall of Fame defender Gary Payton, helium had earned Golden State’s 15th roster spot with his defense. The 28-year-old journeyman had 3 steals and a artifact to spell with 14 points and played successful a mode that Kerr said earned him regular playing time.

“We’re starting to physique an individuality and it’s precise overmuch antiaircraft minded,” Kerr said. “Which is benignant of fun.”

After an progressive last agelong from Payton, Kerr wanted to fto the assemblage fete him. He removed him from the crippled with 2 minutes 23 seconds near truthful the fans could chant his name. As they did, Kerr noticed Green astatine the free-throw enactment applauding Payton arsenic well.

Thompson, his lightly worn azygous traded successful for achromatic denim, wasn’t playing, but helium wasn’t absent either. He sat connected the seat and marveled astatine the squad helium saw earlier him — peculiarly Payton.

“I tin ticker Gary Payton II play defence each nighttime long,” helium wrote connected Twitter, soon aft the crippled ended.

Said Payton, erstwhile asked astir Thompson’s tweet: “I tin ticker Klay Thompson sprout the shot each time long. And I can’t hold to ticker that each crippled long.”

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Credit...Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Kerr said helium has nary volition of rushing Thompson, knowing the patience indispensable erstwhile a subordinate returns from an Achilles’ tendon injury.

“Generally speaking, the ones who person waited a afloat twelvemonth positive person done overmuch better,” Kerr said earlier Wednesday’s game. Thompson had country to repair his Achilles’ tendon connected Nov. 25, 2020. After each these months, what’s another?

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