Klay Thompson's defense on Chris Paul answering Rockets' 'what-ifs'

Klay Thompson's defense on Chris Paul answering Rockets' 'what-ifs'

OAKLAND – Chris Paul’s job in the 2019 Western Conference semifinals is to validate the words of his Houston Rockets teammates, who have spent nearly a year insisting that losing him in Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals kept them from taking down the Warriors.

Paul is failing in his quest mostly because Klay Thompson keeps getting in the way.

Thompson is unfazed by the belief that Paul may be the NBA’s best pure point guard, typically having an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio while also being a legitimate threat to score. That confidence stems from Thompson’s work while being assigned to Paul during the three most intense years of the Warriors-Clippers rivalry.

Thompson used his tenacity and his seven-inch height advantage. The formula that was successful then – the Warriors were 11-1 against LA during that three-year stretch – still applies to the first two games of this series, both of which were won by the Warriors.

It’s not that Thompson is locking up Paul. He’s shooting 47.8 percent from the field, including 38.5 from deep. But Thompson’s defense has made Paul less effective and more erratic than usual. Paul’s assist-to-turnover ratio in the regular season was 3.2-1. With 10 assists and nine turnovers in two games, that's down to a ghastly 1.1-1 through the first two games of the second round.

With James Harden usually the primary ball-handler, Paul, who turns 34 on Monday, is playing more off the ball than he did in LA. It hasn’t changed Thompson’s approach.

“He’s not as explosive as he was in his younger days, but he’s craftier,” Thompson said Thursday. “He has more gamesmanship, as far as drawing fouls and baiting you into things. He’s still an elite shooter and an elite playmaker, so it’s a fun challenge to go up against him.”

Even though Thompson entered the series hobbling on a sprained right ankle sustained in Game 6 of the first-round series against the Clippers, it’s evident that his presence bothers Paul and thus hurts the Rockets.

“I like what Klay is doing on defense,” Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams said. “His effort has been high and he’s making sure Chris feels him.”

[RELATED: Curry (finger) on track to play Game 3 after full practice]

While plenty of conversation in the first two games revolving around officials and the defensive impact of Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, Thompson’s containment of Paul has gone mostly under the radar.

If this keeps up and the Warriors win the series, it will silence the Houston narrative that the Warriors slipped into The Finals last year only because Paul missed Games 6 and 7.

Juan Toscano-Anderson reveals his Warriors all-time starting five

Juan Toscano-Anderson reveals his Warriors all-time starting five

Plenty of phenomenal players have taken the court in a Warriors jersey.

From current star and two-time MVP Steph Curry all the way back to 1975 NBA Finals MVP Rick Barry, Golden State could field a pretty incredible all-time roster.

When asked to put together a starting five for this hypothetical all-time squad, young guard Juan Toscano-Anderson elected to throw a quicker lineup on the court.

With the tallest player in that five being Stephen Jackson at 6-foot-8, this truly would be one of the smallest lineups a team could send out in the modern NBA.

[RELATED: Warriors' 2017 Finals Game 2 win was Steph, KD at best]

The Houston Rockets started experimenting with some very small lineups during the 2019-20 season, getting some mixed results.

One thing is for sure: This five would have an unbelievable amount of fun on the court together. Combining the two stars of the “We Believe” team in Jackson and Baron Davis with the trio at the epicenter of the Warriors’ dynastic run in Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Curry could create some pretty special moments.

With no live NBA action for the foreseeable future, there’s plenty of time to see just how dominant this squad could be in NBA 2K.

Mo Speights claims he almost beat Klay Thompson in shooting contest

Mo Speights claims he almost beat Klay Thompson in shooting contest

Marreese Speights instantly became a fan favorite during his tenure with the Warriors from 2013-16, bringing a strong scoring punch off the bench and inspiring energy inside Oracle Arena in a way that few in team history have.

Speights was known as a stretch four in the NBA, possessing a consistent mid-range and 3-point shot that forced defenses to extend.

However -- while Speights is by no means proficient enough from outside to be a Splash Brother -- the veteran almost took one of them down in a 3-point shootout.

“I almost got close to beating Klay one time,” Speights said on Warriors Outsiders. “Those guys is by far way on top of everybody.

“But after that, after those two guys, it’s free game after that.”

[RELATED: Speights explains craziest part of Klay's 37-point quarter]

Speights shot a solid .333 percent from three in his time with Golden State, but he always seemed to connect when it mattered most.

Perhaps once life returns to normal, we can get a rematch between these two beloved former teammates.