A lot of column inches have been devoted to debating whether Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson compose the best-shooting guard tandem in NBA history. Lately, it’s been like asking whether Joe Montana and Steve Young were the best quarterback tandem in NFL history – it doesn’t make sense, because only one of them performed at any given time.
We’ve seen an sweeping variety of images during the Warriors’ first-round playoff series against the Clippers – silent protests on the court, vocal protests outside Staples Center, packed-to-the-gills press conferences, 40-point blowouts, a gimpy Chris Paul trying to operate with a tight hamstring, a gimpier Jermaine O’Neal being helped to the bench, the existence of Hilton Armstrong.
What we haven’t seen is Curry and Thompson getting hot at the same time.
It’s more like they have been taking turns. Curry had 24 points on 53-percent shooting in Game 2, lit up the Clips for 33 points in Game 4 and had 24 again (though it took him 24 shots to get there) last night in Game 6. Thompson tallied 22 points in Game 1, 26 points in Game 3 and 21 points in Game 5. Each has struggled rather mightily, more or less every other game.
It’s not like these guys don’t have experience working as a one-two punch. Twenty-one times this season, Curry and Thompson each scored 20+ points in the same game, a rate of better than once every four games. And they seemed to rev up down the stretch, doing the 20/20 thing three times in the last five games of the regular season – and Curry didn’t even play in the final game.
You’ve seen it. Curry blasts a trey, then a minute later he kicks the ball to Klay for a trey from the corner, then Curry hits another from 25 feet, and suddenly the opponents look like they want to flee the court and find a bomb shelter.
That just hasn’t happened against Los Angeles. To the Clippers’ credit, it has something to do with their defense. They are a good defensive team, and DeAndre Jordan’s presence under the basket allows them to attack the perimeter, daring opponents to drive inside. Still, both Curry and Thompson have proved they can get hot against Doc Rivers’ team; they just haven’t done it concurrently. And it’s not like that has been the result of shifting defensive matchups. Chris Paul has been on Curry for most of the series, and Thompson has been guarded by a combination of Matt Barnes, J.J. Redick and Darren Collison.
It’s simply a matter of inconsistency from the Warriors’ guards. And yet Golden State is in position to wrap up the series by winning Game 7, just as the Clippers are. The Warriors should take that as a reason for optimism. If they can hang with the Clips for six games with only one Splash Bro shooting straight at any given time, imagine what they can do if both siblings show up tomorrow.