Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in the game, but he hasn't shown it during the 2017 playoffs. He's shooting more than 10 percentage points below his regular season average, and yet it hasn't mattered one bit as far as wins and losses are concerned.
Golden State improved to 13-0 in the postseason after recording a 22-point Game 1 win over the Cavaliers to open the NBA Finals, and that happened despite Thompson finishing with just six points on 3-of-16 shooting. He helps in other ways, of course — most noticeably on the defensive end of the floor, where Thompson locked up any Cavaliers player he found himself matched up against.
But the fact that he continues to shoot even when he's struggling is also an enormous help to his team's offense, as Kevin Durant explained during his media availability on Saturday.
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"Well, if he's not making shots, he's still a respected shooter and nobody's going to give him open shots if he starts to miss," Durant told reporters. "So we know the gravity he pulls when he's out there, and his movement off of the ball is one of the main reasons why we're a good team. And his defense is the reason why we we're one of the best defensive teams in the league as well.
"So when he's not shooting the ball, that doesn't take him out of his game, that doesn't lower his confidence. He just continues to keep shooting and stay aggressive on both end of the floor."
Because of just how deadly Thompson has proven to be throughout his NBA career, his mere presence on the floor forces teams to guard him, regardless of his recent struggles. That opens driving lanes for Durant and Stephen Curry, and makes it tough for his defender to provide help somewhere else.
"He's one of the best shooters we have ever seen," Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue told reporters on Saturday. "For him to be in a slump is crazy. He's missed some shots or whatever, not in a great rhythm because Steph and KD are playing at a high clip, and they have been in the playoffs. So maybe be a little bit out of rhythm, but as far as off in a slump, I don't believe that. A guy like that is never slumping."
And that is the dilemma for these Cavaliers.
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It would be foolish to believe that Thompson's struggles will continue, despite the fact that they've been ongoing for close to two months. Cleveland has enough problems trying to slow Durant and Curry, and the Cavs wouldn't dare leave Thompson open for extended stretches, for fear of him catching fire, and quickly breaking out of this so-called slump.
The Cavaliers need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball (like, by not turning it over 20 times on the road against the best team in the league), and they need to prevent Golden State from getting so many easy buckets at the rim, while also stopping the Warriors from consistently getting out in transition.
None of that involves changing the strategy against Thompson, because as he so aptly put it when assessing his Game 1 performance on Friday, if he gets going in Game 2, the final margin of victory could end up looking a whole lot worse.
"Well, obviously I could have shot the ball much better," Thompson said. "Hope to make a few more of those on Sunday and instead of win by 20, win by 30, I guess."