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.

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

Why Mychal Thompson thinks Steph Curry will make 500 3-pointers this year

The Warriors' roster turnover this summer has been well-documented, but Mychal Thompson things it will bring out the best in Steph Curry next season.

Curry will have to adjust to life without Kevin Durant next season, after the star signed with the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. The two-time MVP also will miss Klay Thompson -- Mychal's son -- for much of the campaign as the Splash Brother recovers from a torn ACL. Because of that, the elder Thompson thinks Curry has the potential for a record-breaking season in 2019-20.

"Now, they're not going to be as good as they were last year -- and by the way, I predict Steph is going to have 500 3s this year without having to share the ball that much back in the backcourt with Klay," Mychal said Friday on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "So he's going to come back to his MVP form we saw two years ago."

Curry set the NBA's single-season record with 402 made 3-pointers en route to the first unanimous MVP in league history in 2015-16. He did so leading a historic Warriors team that went 73-9, and Klay finished second on Golden State that season with 276 made 3-pointers. 

Klay made 241 -- and attempted 599 -- triples last year, while Curry made 354 and attempted 810. Assuming Thompson returns after the All-Star break, there could be enough touches for Curry to shatter his own record. However, summer acquisition D'Angelo Russell made just seven fewer 3-pointers than Thompson last season. He probably will take fewer shots as the No. 2 option behind Curry to start the season, but Russell's presence probably lowers Curry's record-setting ceiling. 

[RELATED: Steph comments on learning about KD's decision on plane]

Curry unquestionably will have to carry a bigger load for as long as Klay's out next season. But when his son returns, Mychal thinks the Warriors will find themselves on the same level as other Western Conference contenders. 

"[Draymond Green] is motivated to have a great year because his contract year is coming up," the elder Thompson continued.  "So I think [Curry and Green] -- and with the addition of D'Angelo Russell and the other role players that they've signed -- I think they'll be right in the mix. Somewhere between a five [or] six seed until Klay comes back 100 percent, and then they'll be ready to make their move." 

Steph Curry reveals wild prank Warriors vet played on him as rookie

Steph Curry reveals wild prank Warriors vet played on him as rookie

Hazing happens in all walks of life, including the NBA.

Before Steph Curry became a two-time NBA MVP and three-time NBA champion, he was a rookie.

While in Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament last week, he revealed the following story to Chris Simms of NBC Sports on "Unbuttoned":

"I had a vet when I was a rookie -- I had my phone, mind you I'm dating my now wife at the time and I'm going on a road trip so I need my phone obviously -- we had finished practice and we were headed to the airport, and he knew where my phone was.

"He knew I always put it in this little pocket in my backpack. So after practice, I go get in the shower and put my phone in there. I'm kind of late so I'm hustling. He knows after I get out the shower I'm probably not gonna grab my phone.

"Take my phone, locks it in his locker. I get all the way to the airport and realize I don't have my phone. I get off the plane in Oklahoma City, not only did he make me leave my phone at home so I had to go to the store to get another one, he sent me on basically a two-hour errand run to go get video games and snacks.

"This is before Uber or Lyft so I'm in the yellow cab and paying for everything. That's just a headache."

Who was the veteran -- Anthony Tolliver, Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Mikki Moore or Vladimir Radmanovic? Perhaps it was Devean George?

Unfortunately, Curry did not disclose that information.

We also don't know if it was the Dubs' first or second game in Oklahoma City that season.

[RELATEDCurry comments on finding out about KD's decision on plane]

On Dec. 7, Curry registered 22 points, two assists, four steals and five turnovers in a 104-88 loss (Kevin Durant recorded 28 points, nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and six turnovers).

On Jan. 31, Curry contributed 14 points, five assists and five turnovers in a 112-104 loss (KD racked up 45 points and 11 rebounds).

That likely will remain a mystery, but what we do know is that NBA stars are just like us - pranks and all.

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