OAKLAND — A day ago, Klay Thompson was hobbling. A day ago, the ankle that was rolled up by J.R. Smith had stiffened. A day ago, Steve Kerr said his best jump shooter — who had missed just 20 games in the last seven years, and never a playoff game — was questionable for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Sunday night, after a 122-103 win, Thompson, sitting next to Stephen Curry, shrugged and smiled in the postgame press conference.
“I didn’t realize how much you use your ankle until you hurt it,” he said.
Curry, who has had two ankle surgeries and multiple sprains, deadpanned: “You should have asked me.”
If Thompson was hurting, it was tough to tell. He started Game 2 with a driving layup, then hit a three, then swiped a bad pass and advanced the ball up to Curry, who in turn fed Draymond Green for a slam dunk. Thompson scored 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, with two rebounds and an assist in 34 minutes.
“I thought there was no chance he was playing tonight,” said Green. “I mean, I saw him walking in yesterday and saw his ankle and I was like, yeah, there’s no chance he’s playing.”
With 6:17 to go in the first quarter of Thursday’s Game 1, Thompson broke to the left wing to receive a pass from Curry. Smith made a dive at Thompson as the pass came in, and went low, taking out Thompson’s left leg, rolling up on his left ankle. Thompson returned and played 39:38 of the final 41 minutes.
On Friday, Thompson said he felt surprisingly good during a media teleconference, but in truth, he was limited in practice. After getting treatment, Curry saw Thompson get out on the court and take shots just to keep his rhythm.
Then, on Saturday, Thompson wasn’t seen during the open portion of Warriors practice, and afterwards, limped heavily to the podium before referring to the injury as a high ankle sprain.
Before Game 2, Green texted Thompson, “Man, you good?”
“He’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m good,'” Green said. “‘How your ankle feeling?’ ‘A lot better.’ Of course Klay’s lying. That’s just who Klay is.”
Before the game, Green watched Thompson warm up, and still didn’t think Thompson would play.
“Even if you saw him take the first lay-up he took in warm-ups and ran back to the locker room. It’s like he ain’t going to have it,” Green said. “Sure enough he did.”
Thompson hit a three as the Warriors hit seven straight shots to open the game. Then, he went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc, and looked like he wasn’t quite getting enough lift on his shot, coming up well short of the rim on two attempts. In the first half, he went 1-for-5 from three-point range.
Thompson, though, buoyed the Warriors during a third quarter where Cleveland outscored them 34-31.
As the second half dawned, Thompson came up short on another three, before hitting a corner triple with 9:12 to go. It was the first of four straight shots he hit in the third quarter, including a three with 2:45 after Cleveland closed the gap from 15 points to five.
“[He’s] one of the toughest guys if not the toughest guy I’ve ever played with,” Green said. “He’ll never get credit for it because he’s not going to physically beat you up. But one of the toughest, if not thee toughest guy for sure.”
Golden State and Thompson now have two days to rest up before Wednesday’s Game 3 in Cleveland
“Being on the training table for, it felt like, three straight days, that’s something I’m not used to,” Thompson said. “But at this point in the season, any means necessary. And the ankle feels great. I won’t do much tomorrow and I’ll do a little bit Tuesday. But I’m just going to conserve all I’ve got for Wednesday because I don’t want to play with it.”