We’re used to seeing Stephen Curry getting the ball and the spotlight with the game on the line for the Golden State Warriors, but changing things up might bring good results, like going to Klay Thompson for the winning shot against the Indiana Pacers, beating the Eastern Conference Leaders 98-96.
Thompson led the Warriors with 25 points, coming after a few rough games for the shooting guard. Stephen Curry had a hard time against the Pacers defense that focused on him, limiting him to 19 points on 7-of-18 from the field. He just had enough help this time – David Lee scoring 11 points, while both Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green scored 10 points each coming off the bench, making up for another rough night from Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, combining to score nine points on 33.3% from the field.
It wasn’t just the offense that won the game for the Warriors. Their defense, especially on that final Pacers possession with the game tied at 96, made it very hard for Indiana to get anywhere near the rim, resulting in a lot of bad shots from Paul George. He did score 26 points but it was on a very bad 8-of-23 from the field, and took a tough contested three that bounced off the rim before Thompson had his spin moment on George Hill.
This was only the fourth time the Pacers lost at home this season, but luckily it didn’t cost them the top spot in the Eastern conference because of the Miami Heat losing in Houston. The Pacers still hold the lead in the conference with a 46-14 record, two games ahead of the Miami Heat.
The Warriors improved to 37-24, although it doesn’t take them higher than sixth in the West – only creating some separation between them and the Suns/Mavs, who are also gunning for the Warriors’ spot. Talent-wise, there’s a chance the Warriors might belong a bit higher – with the Clippers, Rockets and Blazers, but they’ve had their poor stretches this season, casuing them to fall a bit short of expectations when it comes to their ranking in the West.
But with this kind of defense? The Warriors can hope for bigger than just sixth in the West. They’re 6-2 since the All-Star beak and have now won 19 games on the road for a second consecutive season. That hasn’t happened since 1970-71 and 1971-72. Their win in Indiana was their first since 2007, not to mention coming against the best home team in the NBA.
Mark Jackson was all praise towards Thompson at the end, talking about taking him for granted and highlighting his durability. The most important thing was his ability to make up for Curry’s struggles in the fourth.
Curry scored all of his 19 points in the first three quarters of the game before getting a bit worn down by the Pacers’ physicality. Thompson made the most of that, regaining his shooting touch that seemed a bit lost in recent games. He scored 16 points in the final quarter, and obviously the best coming right at the end, spinning on George Hill, who might not have been the best suited player to guard Thompson.
The Warriors still have plenty of issues to work out, like Iguodala regaining something of the offense and accuracy we saw from him earlier in the season. He seems to have lost confidence in his shot, and his contribution on defense isn’t going to be enough. If Jackson finds a way to get Iguodala going again, not having home court advantage in the postseason might not be that much of a problem.