SAN FRANCISCO – When his name was last featured in the Golden State Warriors starting lineup, Klay Thompson sat on the bench, looked ahead and absorbed it all.
This moment, including one of the loudest ovations in Chase Center history, took 941 days.
After being out for nearly 31 months, the Warriors’ beloved star guard made his long-awaited return to the court following ACL and Achilles injuries. He scored 17 points in 20 minutes in a 96-82 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The entire evening was a celebration in the Bay Area for Thompson, who was treated to a hero’s welcome.
“I will never forget the reception that Warriors fans gave us, especially me,” Thompson said. “God, it was fun and it was worth every day to be out. It was worth every moment,” he added.
“I’m not going to say equivalent to winning a championship,” Thompson maintained on how he felt tonight … “But man, it was pretty close.”
In his first game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, Thompson missed some early shots that he normally does. But he found his range when he fired up and made three shots in a row in a short span in which he scored seven of his points in the third quarter, “he added.
After missing 177 games in a row, the shooter wasn’t shy on the ‘trigger’, hitting 18 shots in 20 minutes.
“That’s Klay Thompson,” Stephen Curry added blankly.
Thompson made seven shots, including a 3-of-8 from behind the arc. He also reached two milestones: 12,000 career points and 1,800 triples.
But the highlight of the night was a “ruthless” slam dunk, as Curry described it. Thompson edged out Cavs center Jarrett Allen before eliminating more than two years of frustration with a one-handed dunk on Lauri Markkanen and Dylan Windler with 2:56 remaining in the second quarter.
With that poster dunk, Thompson showed that he still has some of his explosiveness after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors on June 13, 2019 and then tearing his right Achilles tendon in November of 2020.