The Story: Klay Thompson suffered a broken right thumb (i.e., on his shooting hand) in Sunday’s loss to the Timberwolves, according to reports, and is expected to miss at least a week. He is scheduled to be reevaluated on March 22 and return no later than the end of the month.
The Takeaway: Thompson’s injury is largely inconsequential if it follows the expected recovery timeline. But combine his injury with Steph Curry’s ankle injury (which is set to be reevaluated in a week), and it makes for an interesting final stretch of games for the Warriors and the Western Conference as a whole. There’s no danger of the Warriors falling back to the 3-seed—Golden State is 10 games up on the third-place Trail Blazers—but there’s also a gap (currently at two games) forming between the Warriors and the first-place Rockets. Seven of the Warriors’ last 15 games are against teams below .500, while only five of Houston’s games are against teams below .500. But the Rockets are playing on another level right now, having lost only five games since 2018 began; the Warriors, meanwhile, have been trudging through the second half anxious for the playoffs to begin. They are 51-16 overall, and on course for their “worst” record of the Steve Kerr era.
It’s been four years since the Warriors didn’t finish as the West’s top team. With the defending champs a little more banged up than usual, this may be the season Houston unseats them.
The Importance: The question is: Does seeding matter? And if so, how much does Thompson’s absence actually hurt the Warriors in that quest? Thompson is quietly averaging career highs in field goal percentage (49 percent) and 3-point shooting (44 percent), even though he’s averaging only 19.7 points per game. Take him out, and Curry can make up for his absence. But put them both in street clothes, and it’s Kevin Durant’s team.
Durant, though he previously said he’s “not a leader,” has shown the ability to take over games when Curry sits. It’s like he knows he can become the best scorer on the planet whenever he wants to, but he’ll only do so when he needs to. Without both Thompson and Curry the next few games, we might get a good, long look at I-can-do-it-all-by-myself Durant.
If the Warriors don’t care about the 1-seed, it’s because they have the talent to do so. Heck, given the fluctuation in the West, they may end up with a more favorable first-round matchup as a result. Their injury list for Wednesday’s game against the Lakers is as long as the Celtics’, and they canceled practice the morning after going hard at Curry’s 30th birthday party. They’re banged up, sure, but they’re still cruising. It’s almost like they’re daring us to doubt them.