What we learned as Klay torches Heat in crucial Warriors win


What we learned as Klay torches Heat in crucial Warriors win originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Steve Kerr put Klay Thompson back in the starting lineup to shake up the Warriors’ sluggish offense, and the five-time NBA All-Star provided a huge spark in a 113-92 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday at Kaseya Center.

Thomspon, making his first start in nearly two weeks, paced the Warriors with 28 points. He made six 3-pointers and shot 11 of 20 overall to finish plus-25.

Stephen Curry had 17 points and six assists to help Golden State end a two-game losing streak that had put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.

The Warriors still need a strong finish over their final 11 games to get in. At 37-34, Golden State still trails the No. 9 Lakers in the West but moved a full game up on the Houston Rockets for the No. 10 seed.

Jonathan Kuminga added 18 points and seven rebounds, while Andrew Wiggins had 17 points and seven boards.

Chris Paul didn’t score but dished out seven assists and joined John Stockton and Jason Kidd as the only players in NBA history to have at least 2,600 steals.

The Warriors needed this one in the worst way, both for their playoff aspirations as well as their own mental well-being.

The Heat were without Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, which should have tilted the game in Golden State’s favor. But the Warriors haven’t played all that well against short-handed teams and didn’t take full control against Miami until the second half.

The Warriors let an eight-point lead slip away in the first quarter, trailed 55-53 at halftime, then turned things around in the third. Thompson scored eight of the Golden State’s 32 points in the quarter, and the Warriors were able to hold on from there.

That, in itself, is encouraging news. Nearly one-third of the Warriors’ losses this season have come when they’ve led going into the fourth quarter.

Golden State’s road trip continues Wednesday against the Orlando Magic at Kia Center.

Here are the takeaways from Tuesday’s game:

Klay comes out firing

Thompson had long stretches where he looked a lot like his vintage self. That was big during a game when most of the Warriors’ other scorers were scuffling to find their rhythms.

The 28 points are the most by Thompson since he dropped 35 against Utah while coming off the bench on Feb 15.

The Heat stayed in a zone for a chunk of time during the first half, and Thompson was able to find some vacant spots in the defense. The majority of his shots were smooth and silky, the kind that helped establish Thompson’s sharp-shooting legacy.

With so much at stake the rest of the way, there’s no reason to put Thompson back on the bench in a reserve role. Although he handled the demotion well, the offense needs someone it can lean on not named Curry. As it stands right now, Klay can be that guy again.

Wings take flight in second half

Kuminga and Wiggins were mostly quiet in the first half but there was a concerted effort to get both going coming out of halftime.

Wiggins looked especially sharp, nailing his first three shots in the third quarter. He also made a pair of key blocks and was much more active defensively.

Kuminga also was more assertive than he had been for the first 24 minutes. He scored six of his points during the third quarter, including arguably the play of the game when, after a Thompson missed 3-pointer, JK leaped high in the air and grabbed the ball with one-hand then slammed it home.

Wiggins finished 7 of 12 and was plus-17. Kuminga shot 8 of 13 and was plus-21.

Too much Bam

Draymond Green did a fairly decent job defending Bam Adebayo for most of the game, but the Heat big man got rolling and he was difficult to stop.

Adebayo was a significant factor on both ends of the court, setting up camp and scoring in the key on offense while swatting away multiple lob attempts on defense.

With the Heat missing so many players, it was natural that Adebayo was going to be the focal point of Miami’s offense.

The Warriors were also missing a key piece, as backup center Trayce Jackson-Davis sat out with a knee injury. That opened the door for Kevon Looney to get back into the rotation, but even with the added size Loon gives the Dubs inside, it wasn’t enough to contain Bam.

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