Klay Thompson makes triumphant return to Warriors after grueling two-and-a-half-year absence
Thompson rattled off 17 points in just 20 minutes to set the Warriors on course for a 96-82 win, snapping a two-game losing skid and lifting the team to a 30-9 season record — joint top of the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns.
Thompson received a hero’s welcome from a rapturous home crowd in San Francisco, lifting the roof off the Chase Center with a driving lay-up inside the first minute.
“It was a very special moment that I’ll never forget,” Thompson told reporters.
“I will never forget the reception that Warriors fans gave us, especially myself. Gosh, it was fun and it was worth every single day of being away and in that squat rack or on that shuttle board and all the conditioning days.
“It was worth every single moment. It’s been a long run — I am not going to say equivalent to winning a championship. But man, it was pretty freaking close.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed that the first play had not been designed for the returning guard to score, but Thompson was simply too amped up.
“I was so excited I saw a lane to the basket that I just took the opportunity,” Thompson said.
“After that, I thought it was going to be one of those nights where I might be unconscious. I did not shoot as well as I wanted to, but I’m so happy I can even look at the stat sheet and see my name there.”
Splash Brothers reunited
Thompson’s ‘Splash Brother’ Steph Curry — a nicknamed coined for the pair’s devastating potency from three-point range — led the scoring with a 28-point haul and a game-high four three-pointers.
Understandably, Thompson’s long-range sights were slightly less calibrated than usual, missing his first three triple attempts, but the guard recovered to go three for eight from downtown.
Curry, who warmed up in a Thompson jersey to mark his return, was not surprised by his teammate’s immediate impact.
“That is so Klay Thompson and I freaking love it,” Curry told reporters.
“The funny part is, coach had to mention it, we had to mention it before the game — don’t feel like you have to force-feed him because he will find his shots and he definitely did not disappoint on that front.”
Lamar Stevens led scoring for the visitors with 17 — adding four rebounds and an assist — as the Cavaliers dropped to 22-18 for the season.
After a glorious homecoming, Thompson and the Warriors will now prepare for four straight games on the road — starting with a tough trip to Memphis to face a Grizzlies (28-14) team looking to extend an NBA-best nine-game winning streak.
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