Guard Klay Thompson (11) of the Golden State Warriors defends against the Washington Wizards during the third quarter of the game on October 24, 2018 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Chris Victorio / Special to S.F. Examiner)

Klay Thompson returns to starting lineup, but will face a Lakers team missing LeBron James

OAKLAND — On a night where the Golden State Warriors will get Klay Thompson back on the floor, they will once again be facing a Los Angeles Lakers team without LeBron James. 

After missing Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers due to illness, Golden State’s newly-named All-Star reserve will return to the floor as a starter to help the Warriors get back to their winning ways.

During a stretch where the Warriors won 11 straight, Thompson was key, scoring nearly 24 points per game and shooting 45 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers were one of the teams that fell during that streak, losing with Janes on the bench due to groin issues. He’ll miss Saturday because of “load management,” according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo sports.

“[Klay is] feeling better. I saw him at the facility this morning,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said during his pre-game press conference on Saturday afternoon. “He said he’s going to play so we’ll give him a shot to warm up and see how he feels but it looks good.”

 After starting the season in a deep shooting slump, in which he shot 34 percent from 3-point range in October and November, Thompson returned to his efficient ways in January. Without him on Thursday, Golden State had issues with spacing and rhythm.

“It affected our rotation a little bit [against the 76ers].” Kerr said in regards to Thompson’s absence. “Klay’s a great player. He’s been an All-Star for five years in a row. He’s on of the keys to our team. Of course we missed him.”

Hitting 47 percent of his shots behind the arc, Thompson helped the Warriors regain the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference over the Denver Nuggets and re-establish Golden State’s dominance during the Warriors’ season-long 11-game winning streak. 

His highlight performance during that stretch was a 44-point outing against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 21 where Thompson sunk an NBA record 10 consecutive 3-pointers, leading Golden State to a 130-111 win. 

One of those watching Thompson’s heroics that night was James, who was still sidelined due to a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day against the Warriors in Oakland.

Including that night in Los Angeles, the Lakers lost 10 of their 17 games without James, falling to the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference standings.

The Lakers have been reported to be one of the leading teams hoping to pursue Thompson — who grew up in Los Angeles — during the 2019 offseason, as the 28-year-old will hit free agency at the conclusion of this season.

Los Angeles has recently made headlines after being listed as the favorites to land New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis after his desire to be traded was made public.  

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, if Los Angeles does indeed acquire Davis, “Thompson’s attention will be on the Lakers.”

While this potential situation is merely speculation at this point, the focus is now in Saturday night as Thompson returns from an undisclosed illness for Golden State. While James will be out because of load management, it’s hard not to imagine that the additions of both Thompson and Davis could help lighten the load on James.  

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