The scariest thing for the rest of the league about the Golden State Warriors 23-0 start isn’t the all-court improvement of Draymond Green, scorching marksmanship of Andre Iguodala, or even the historic offensive dominance of Steph Curry. The defending champions were bound to get better this season considering the age and relative inexperience; that some of their key cogs are playing at a higher level compared to 2014-15 shouldn’t exactly be surprising.
So, what is? That Golden State is eyeing the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers’ seemingly untouchable string of consecutive victories despite Klay Thompson’s struggles.
“Struggles” is a context-dependent term, by the way. The second Splash brother entered Tuesday’s competition averaging 19.7 points per-36 minutes on 58 percent true shooting, very solid numbers for a great team’s second or third scoring banana – especially considering a notable drop in field goal attempts and overall usage. But they pale in comparison to those he registered last season en route to All-NBA Third Team honors, and proved quietly consistent throughout the season’s first five weeks.
Was Thompson simply warming up to the grind of another 82 games after playing into June? Or far more troublingly, was he grappling with a slightly altered role in the Warriors’ league-best offensive attack? Even for a juggernaut like Golden State, the line between winning a championship and ending a season disappointed is razor thin – to the point that Thompson’s quietly disappointing play could push his team over come June.
That’s not a concern anymore, though. Basketball’s quickest-twitch sharpshooter averaged 26.8 points per game on 50.0 percent from the field and 51.1 percent from beyond the arc during his team’s 4-0 week, and went crazy for 39 points and 10 triples in the Warriors’ 131-123 win over the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night. Just one problem: Thompson tweaked his ankle in the game’s waning moments.
Fortunately, that injury should prove a minor blip going forward. Tests taken after Golden State’s win showed no structural damage, and Thompson told reporters he’d be “fine in a couple of days.”
Which begs an absolutely frightening question for other teams with title hopes: Might the Warriors still have room to improve?
Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes have each missed multiple games with injuries. Golden State’s vaunted defense has lagged of late. And Steve Kerr remains absent from the sidelines. Yes, basically, there really is a chance that basketball’s best team still hasn’t reached its peak.
And Thompson’s breakout is a helpful reminder of that mind-numbing possibility.