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What we learned about Klay in victorious return vs. Cavs

/ by Dalton Johnson
Presented By Waiakea
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Klay

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steve Kerr said it best. No matter the score, no matter the results, he would never forget Sunday night at Chase Center. He isn't alone. 

Klay Thompson was back in the Warriors' starting lineup for the first time in 941 days, and everything else was the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae that everyone wanted a scoop of for this occasion.

From the moment Thompson ran onto the floor for his pregame warmups, Sunday night felt like Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It was the Warriors' 39th regular-season game of 2021-2022, but it was clear this one meant much, much more. In the end, it was Golden State's 30th win this season after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 96-82. 

Thompson scored the first two points of the night for the Warriors and finished with 17 in 20 minutes played. Steph Curry caught fire sharing the same backcourt with his fellow Splash Brother and made his first four 3-point attempts of the night. He scored a game-high 28 points. The only thing that was missing was Draymond Green, who honored Thompson by being on the court for the opening tip-off but didn't play again after experiencing left calf tightness during pregame warmups

Here are three Thompson takeaways from Klay Day, a night that forever will live in Warriors history. 

 

He's back!

To no surprise, the Warriors made sure their shooting guard saw the ball right away. However, Thompson's first points of the night didn't come off a 3-pointer or a fadeaway jumper. Instead, he came off a Juan Toscano-Anderson screen, attacked the basket and drained a layup over center Jarrett Allen. 

Those were Klay's only two points of the first quarter. He played the first 4:23 of the game before being replaced by Jordan Poole, who played great off the bench. Poole will be the Warriors' Sixth Man with Thompson back in the starting lineup, and he thrived. Poole scored 14 points and was was a plus-17 in plus-minus. He nailed a 3-pointer his first time sharing the court with Klay, and Poole also had multiple instances where he made a perfect pass but couldn't buy an assist. 

Thompson kept his legs fresh on the stationary bike and didn't return until there was 4:23 left in the first half. He made his first 3-pointer at the 1:18 mark in the second quarter, and that clearly woke up his jump shot. 

Like he never left

Following his first 3-pointer of the night, Thompson opened the second half making his first three shots. He put up seven points in under three minutes of action, including this 3-pointer that forced a Cavs timeout and had Klay running to the stands to get the fans fired up. 

Even if he started cold from the field, there never really were questions regarding Thompson's ability to put up points in his return. The bigger question mark was his defense. He made the All-Defensive team his last season in the league and is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Even with a questionable (bad) foul call at the end of the first half, Klay showcased his defensive prowess with what appeared to be a blocked shot on guard Darius Garland. 

Thompson wasn't too happy with the call, and understandably so. 

He got his revenge in the fourth quarter, though. 

His final line was a classic Klay box score: 17 points, three 3-pointers, three rebounds, one assist and one block.

Dunk of the Year 

No, I'm not just talking about the first week-plus of 2022. I'm talking about the entire season to date, and the rest of the games that will follow. 

Yes, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II and Toscano-Anderson have thrown down some poster dunks this season. None compare to Klay's first slam in his season debut

Warriors fans were loud when Thompson was announced in the starting lineup. They were even louder when he scored the first to points. They took the roof off Klay's new home when he did this:

Now take a look at the bench's reaction. Watch Steph, watch Draymond, watch Andre Iguodala and put this in a museum. 

It was the moment of the night where the winning score was nothing short of secondary. Never forget Klay Day -- he certainly won't.

 

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