The Golden State Warriors need their superstar, Stephen Curry, to return from a knee injury to have their best chance to repeat as NBA champions.
Until that happens, the Warriors have two other All-Stars who make sure the drop-off without the reigning MVP is manageable.
Klay Thompson is an elite shooter, but he isn’t quite as heralded as Curry, only because Curry puts up unbelievable shooting numbers.
And no one will call Draymond Green humble in the mold of Curry, but he stokes the Warriors’ fire with his tenacity.
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7 Three-pointers by Golden State’s Klay Thompson for the third consecutive game
That’s how the Warriors, minus Curry, routed the Portland Trail Blazers 118-106 in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal matchup Sunday at Oracle Arena.
“Obviously I think everything has to be ratcheted up,” Green said. “I don’t go out there saying I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that more. We all have to, and that’s the entire team.”
There might not be a more confident team missing an MVP than the Warriors. Curry told ABC during an in-game interview the chances are “pretty good” he will return from a sprained MCL for Game 3 at Portland on Saturday.
But with Green and Thompson on point, there’s no need to rush.
Golden State’s depth has been touted all season. The Warriors played most of their first-round series without Curry, eliminating the Houston Rockets in five games. Minus Curry, they are 3-1 this postseason and 2-1 in the regular season.
For Golden State’s success to continue without Curry, Thompson and Green said they need to be themselves and help the team play as a unit. That’s easier to do when Thompson is shooting well and Green puts on another solid all-around performance.
Thompson scored 18 of his game-high 37 points in the first quarter to propel the Warriors to a 37-17 lead. For the third consecutive game, he sank seven three-pointers. No player had made seven three-pointers in back-to-back postseason games before Thompson.
“I just want to play as myself and to my strengths,” Thompson said. “Obviously I don’t have the handle and creativity of Steph, so I have to get it differently. I’ve got to use my teammates. These guys set great screens to get me open and I was in a great rhythm to start the game – not just settle for good shots but great shots.”
Not many guys in the league who could chase Damian Lillard around for 37 minutes and score 37 points, too.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, on Klay Thompson
Green posted a triple double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He also had three blocks.
And Golden State’s defense was superb against Portland’s top two scorers. Damian Lillard had 30 points but made only 8 of 26 shots. C.J. McCollum had 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Credit Thompson with helping stymie Lillard, who averaged 36.5 points on 47.5 percent shooting in four regular-season games against the Warriors.
“Not many guys in the league who could chase Damian Lillard around for 37 minutes and score 37 points, too,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Klay is a tremendous two-way player and that was a really amazing (game) for him in terms of his all-around play.”
Game 2 is Tuesday in Oakland, and the Trail Blazers must avoid another big deficit and get better shooting from Lillard and McCollum.
Portland also can’t worry about when Curry might play.
“They are an elite team either way and they showed that (Sunday),” Lillard said. “So like I said, we’ve got to watch film and make corrections and come back and be ready to play a full game, 48 minutes.”
Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.