OAKLAND -- Even as the Warriors remain undefeated this postseason, there are whispered concerns among observers, largely associated with All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson.
What’s wrong with Klay? Is he hurt? Is he slumping? Is his offense getting lost behind Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant?
Though Thompson is averaging 15.0 points on 38.8-percent shooting, 36.0 percent beyond the arc, the Warriors are revealing only mild indications of worry.
Rather, they look at Thompson’s subpar offensive numbers during the playoffs and shrug -- and point to his stellar defense during the team’s 9-0 run thus far, with a 113-111 comeback win Sunday over San Antonio in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as the latest exhibition.
“His stat line, offensively, wasn’t what most people expect, nor was it what he expected,” acting coach Mike Brown says. “When you go back and you watch that tape, defensively he was a monster. He was not good; he was really good for us defensively.”
Though Thompson managed only six points on 2-of-11 shooting in Game 1, he nabbed three steals and blocked two shots.
On the whole, Thompson was far better than his primary defensive assignment, Spurs point guard Patty Mills. Mills played 37 minutes, scoring 5 points on 1-of-8 shooting, including 0-of-6 from deep.
Coming off the bench replacing future Hall of Fame point guard Tony Parker in the starting lineup, Mills was averaging 11.2 points on 46.6-percent shooting through the first 12 games of the postseason.
“You don’t stop anybody in the NBA, but one of the keys to their team is Patty Mills,” Brown says. “He guarded Patty Mills most of the night. They’re like 40-4 when Patty Mill scores more than 10 points.”
Brown’s statistical recollection was off -- the Spurs in the regular season were 36-2 when Mills scores at least 10 points -- but his point was valid. If Mills gets going, good things tend to happen for San Antonio.
Thompson’s defensive task is to ensure Mills doesn’t break down offenses the way Parker once did. He succeeded in that regard.
“One of the things that happened was . . . Klay was locked in on his defensive assignment,” Brown says. “He did about as good a job as we could have asked him to.
“The shooting part is going to come. We’re not worried about that. But the other stuff that he brought to the table was very exciting for us.”
Thompson averaged 18.3 points against Portland in the first round and 14.0 points against Utah in the conference semifinals. Only in one of the nine games this postseason has he shot better than 50 percent from the field.
Given Thompson’s history, a breakout game can happen anytime, maybe as soon as Game 2 on Tuesday.