Klay Thompson spends night inside Russell Westbrook's head: 'He was amazing'

Klay Thompson spends night inside Russell Westbrook's head: 'He was amazing'

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson's typically undercover campaign to earn votes for the NBA All-Defensive team turned highly visible Saturday night.

With the Warriors facing the Thunder inside the cauldron that is Chesapeake Energy Arena, Thompson knew his primary assignment would be Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City’s dynamic point guard.

Stopping Westbrook is the surest way to stop the Thunder, and Thompson put him inside a vise that left Westbrook struggling to find breathing room, barely able to create and at times lashing out in frustration.

The Warriors rolled to a 110-88 victory largely because Westbrook finished with a season-low seven points, with a season-worst 2-of-16 shooting from the field.

“It was fantastic,” Warriors forward Draymond Green assessed. “Klay, no matter who he’s guarding, is always up for the challenge. But he did a great job on Russ tonight, being into the ball and not giving him anything easy, picking and choosing his spots -- when to pressure and when to drop back. He tried to keep him off balance.”

Westbrook missed his first eight shots, finally getting a bucket on a layup with 8:21 left in the third quarter. He was 1 of 15 through three quarters.

Thompson’s defense had such a stressful effect on Westbrook that when one of his shots was stuffed by Thompson in the second quarter, with the Warriors guard grabbing the rebound, Westbrook rammed into him out of despair. The result: a technical foul on Westbrook.

Westbrook later had a brief physical exchange with Warriors backup center -- and fellow UCLA product -- Kevon Looney, who laughed it off, clearly understanding Westbrook’s exasperation.

Thompson, using his four-inch height advantage, cut off Westbrook’s daredevil drives, got into his head early and stayed there all evening

“Understand that he’s so aggressive with the ball in his hands that he’s always going to be in attack mode,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of Westbrook. “Klay was always aware of where he was and trying to keep a body between him and the basket. You live with contested shots.

“He was amazing, especially in that first half, keeping him off balance.”

It’s not unusual that Thompson forces Westbrook into low-percentage shooting. In two games against Klay this season, Westbrook is shooting 22.6 percent (7-of-31). In three games against Thompson, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is shooting 28.2 percent (22-of-78). In three games against Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, a leading MVP candidate, is shooting 39.7 percent (31-of-78).

Asked if Thompson deserves consideration for the All-Defensive team, Green quickly said he should.

[RELATED: Warriors clinch playoff spot]

“I think so,” he said. “There are not many guards in this league that are better than Klay, defensively.”

Westbrook learned that lesson, once again, Saturday night.

Steph Curry as MVP? Six Warriors storylines to watch in 2019-20 season

Steph Curry as MVP? Six Warriors storylines to watch in 2019-20 season

 The Warriors enter the 2019-20 season at a crossroads. 

With Kevin Durant off to Brooklyn, Klay Thompson out for an extended time and eight new faces on the roster, Golden State looks to continue their Western Conference dominance. 

To get you ready, here are six storylines to follow entering the season. 


Warriors were never final stop for Kevin Durant, Stephen A. Smith says

Warriors were never final stop for Kevin Durant, Stephen A. Smith says

“You don’t wanna make an enemy out of me.”

ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said that about former Warriors star Kevin Durant in 2015 on “First Take” after the forward was vocal about not speaking to Smith. 

Smith recently joined Bill Simmons on “The Bill Simmons Podcast” and talked about, among other things, Kevin Durant.

While many around the league speculated throughout the season about whether Durant would go in free agency, Smith says that he never saw Durant’s move to Golden State as a permanent endeavor. 

“When Kevin Durant went to Golden State, I never bought the Steph Curry thing because Kevin Durant always knew it was going to be Steph Curry’s town,” Smith told Simmons. “He went there to - he never ever ever intended to stay more .. longer than he stayed.”

Much was made of Durant wanting to have his own team where he was the star, after spending nearly a decade sharing the spotlight with MVP Russell Westbrook. 

It would be unfair to say Durant was overshadowed during his time in Golden State, however, as KD captured two championships and a pair of Finals MVP trophies during his time with the Warriors. 

“He wanted to go there, win a couple of rings at the very least, and then move on. Because then when he moved on, he would be moving on as a champion.”

Now that Durant has teamed up with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, Smith is unsure when Durant will be on a team where he is the guy.

“Golden State was never a permanent situation for him from my understanding. And that was never going to be the case. He always had intentions to leave. Because he knew that would never be HIS. The question now is, what could possibly be HIS?”

[RELATED: Warriors who could be dark-horse candidates for 2019-20 NBA awards]

Steph Curry, meanwhile, is left to pick up the pieces and do everything he can to keep the momentum rolling for the Warriors as they begin a new era of uncertainty across the Bay.

KD and Stephen A. now work in the same town, so hopefully Durant he doesn't try to pick any more battles with ESPN's most prominent talent.