At some point during this NBA season “The Splash Brothers” productions went from a soul sonic force, comprised of two elite ballers engaged in their own personal aerial competition while also working together to slaughter opposing backcourts, to the “Chef Curry And That Other Guy With The NBA Pops Show.”
Earlier in the season it seemed as if Golden State Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shared the limelight and were considered near equals — if not as all-around players, at least as shooters. They were the EPMD, NWA, Hit Squad of backcourts.
Then the dog days of playoff ball hit. While Curry has had his share of 30 and 40-point games in these playoffs and become the undisputed first face of the franchise (the guy you see featured opposite Lebron in the NBA Finals ads) nobody is really talking about Klay. He’s like the forgotten Splash Brother right now. The numbers even reflect it.
Curry only averaged 2 points per game more than the 6-foot-7, slick-shooting Thompson during the regular season (23.8 ppg – 21.7 ppg). In fact, Thompson holds the team-high for points in a game this season with 52 against Sacramento in January and he had more 40 point pop offs than Chef, whose season-high of 51 came against Dallas on February 4.
These guys traded treys all season long. Each evening they’d try to turn Oakland upside down. For NBA fans it was pure enjoyment, like watching an 82-game marathon of unparalleled basketball wizardry.
“Both of them are nice with it,” said Fanalysts guru Phife Dawg from ATCQ, “but Curry has that killer instinct that all of the legends have and Curry’s averaged more points, rebounds, assists and steals per game in his six-year career than Thompson has in his four-year NBA stint. Klay is nasty, but in money time… it’s Steph all day. He can do more. They both are capable of taking the last shot, but the people already decided who WILL be taking those shots.”
There was a brief point in the season where fans seemed split on which player was more valuable. However, these NBA playoffs have separated the men from the boys and the legends from the coattail-riders. No offense to Klay, who is an elite shooter and NBA All-Star, but The Chef has pulled away from him faster than Usain Bolt in a race against Magic Johnson’s son.The Splash Brothers were once a tandem of equal strength, but now it’s clearly a Batman and Robin/Michael and Scottie,/Magic and Byron Scott kind of situation.
Every other player on Golden State is the supporting cast. Chef Curry seized the moment and elevated his game once securing that NBA MVP award. It catapulted him to further fame and notoriety and has challenged him to maintain that level throughout the playoffs. He’s responded like the DEA going in on Pablo Escobar. Curry averaged 33.8 points per game in the Conference Quarterfinals against New Orleans, 24.5 ppg in the Semis and 31.2 ppg against Houston in the Western Conference Finals. Thompson has accepted his secondary role and since averaging 25.0 ppg in the Pelicans series, he’s averaging just under 18 points. In the regular season Curry was used on a team-high 29.0 percent of possessions, a number that has surely gone up in these playoffs and should increase in the Finals.
We haven’t seen a typical Splash Brothers game yet. When’s the last time both guys were shooting the lights out simultaneously? I don’t know if that’s good news or bad news for King City and The Cavs. Steve Kerr’s air patrol will need more than the 41.7 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from deep that Klay clanked in the WCF against the Rockets. Especially since Cleveland’s defense will probably be a formidable opponent for Golden State and LeBron and Co. will be focused on limiting Curry’s touches. How much better can Curry shoot than the 51.5 field goal percentage and 49.1 percent three-point clip he flexed against Houston? If this guy has another level in him, I can’t wait to see it. The more likely scenario is that Curry will shoot well but at a more “human level” and Thompson will have to get his mojo back and pick up the slack.
Curry still has the super flow but playoff basketball altered Thompson’s role a bit. He’s being forced to mix it up more defensively and his points are down but his rebounds are up to 3.7 (3.2 regular season average). That knee he took to the head from Trevor Ariza in Game 5 against Houston was no joke. Let’s hope those concussion-like symptoms don’t linger and he’s at full capacity for Game 1 on Thursday at Oracle because Thompson is due for a 30-point explosion. He hasn’t had one yet in these playoffs. He hasn’t dropped 30 since April 13th when he posted 42 in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies and prior to that Thompson’s last 30-point game was on February 22. Then again, this isn’t the regular season and he’s not The Chef.
Now that Golden State has silenced the doubters and advanced to its first NBA Finals since 1975, Oracle Arena is officially “The House That Steph Curry Built”. Thompson’s just happy to have a room, a hammer and a favorable story line in the Warriors history books. His time to serve fools will come, but not when The Chef’s cooking.