Eyes rolled when Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he had the greatest shooting backcourt that’s ever played the game.
Klay Thompson did the implausible on Wednesday night by outshining his backcourt mate, Stephen Curry, the sharpshooting darling of the postseason. Curry may have had an off night by his playoff standards with 22 points, but Thompson picked him up.
The other half of the Warriors’ youthful shooting backcourt went off.
Thompson scored a game-high 34 points, including 8-of-9 from three-point range. The second-year 23-year-old shooter scored 29 of his points in the first half. He also had 14 rebounds and three steals in the game.
The Warriors' other half of the "Splash Brothers" is a luxury on Curry's hot-shooting nights and a necessity as a second option when Curry is bogged down.
"I thought it was polite of them to at least take turns and not both be on fire in the same night," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in his postgame press conference.
It’s blasphemous around the Bay Area to argue that there’s a better three-point shot than Curry’s, but Thompson’s form is flawless in a way that even Curry's accuracy can't match.
Thompson's ability to square up to the basket, matched with a quick, perfected high release, makes his shot difficult to defend.
If Thompson is having an off shooting night, it usually means he is fading left to right, but his footwork continues to improve in this area. Thompson is even more effective as a shooter when he denies overplays with his size and ability to attack the basket.
There must be something to having an NBA father who can provide gym time and shooting tips. Thompson, like Curry, is the son of a former NBA player.
Mychal Thompson played with the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers through his career that spanned from 1978 to 1991. Also like Curry, Thompson has a hooper for a brother; Mychel Thompson played at Pepperdine before making runs at an NBA roster spot.
The Warriors' Thompson was a steal at the No. 11 pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of Washington State. He is receiving $2.2 million this season, which raises to $2.3 million next season. He is under team control through 2015-16, when the team can make a qualifying offer on the first-round pick.
That's tremendous value for the Warriors, who are getting a deal after they inked Curry to a four-year, $44 million contract last offseason.
Thompson ranked third in the NBA this regular season with 211 three-pointers made, trailing Curry (272) and Ryan Anderson (213). He averaged 16.6 points per game on his 40.1 percent three-point shooting. In his rookie season, he averaged 41.4 percent from behind the arc.
Thompson owns a high school record in California for his seven three-pointers in a state final game. In his final season at Washington State, Thompson hit 2.9 three-pointers per game and averaged 21.6 points.
The Warriors drafted him as a shooter with size to play alongside Curry. When Monta Ellis was traded last season for Andrew Bogut, Thompson moved into the starting shooting guard spot.
And Thompson isn't just a scorer.
The 6'7", 205-pound guard is the Warriors' best perimeter defender. His arm length, long strides and ability to beat offensive attackers to spots make him a high-level defender.
When Thompson fouled out in the Warriors' Game 1 collapse with just under four minutes remaining and his team leading 104-88, his absence was not only missed offensively. The loss of his defensive abilities in guarding Tony Parker undoubtedly assisted the Spurs' flurry of scoring.
The Warriors continue to shoot past improbability, and the young team is now headed back to Oracle Arena in a 1-1 series tie with the veteran Spurs.
The Spurs needed a 16-point comeback late in the fourth quarter to overcome Curry's 44 points in Game 1. In Game 2, despite Curry being cold for his standards on 2-of-6 three-point shooting and 7-of-20 from the field, it was Thompson who led the Warriors.
If both of these guys continue to stroke, the Warriors' Cinderella run could continue.