ORACLE ARENA – You don’t sense even the slightest drip of nervous tension as Klay Thompson sits back in his locker room chair an hour before tip-off.
The 22-year-old So-Cal kid looks plenty relaxed, more likely to grab a video game controller than an NBA basketball.
But before going on to score 20 points in the Warriors’ 115-100 win against the visiting Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, Thompson admitted he still gets that twinge of nerves before game time.
“I’m still a real young player in this league,” Thompson said prior to the victory. “I get nervous before almost every game. It’s like an anxious feeling; I just want to get out there and play.”
It’s a familiar feel for most young players, especially for lottery picks like Thompson who are given prominent roles early on. Thompson, in his second season, is still dipping his toes in what could be a deep NBA career.
“It’s not as bad as it was my rookie year,” Thompson added. “I feel a lot more calm and collected.”
His play in Friday night’s win was another sign of continued maturity from the young shooter.
Headliners Stephen Curry and David Lee are going to take the lion's share of the spotlight. Lee recorded his third career triple-double on Friday with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Curry had a career-high eight three-pointers to score 27 points, delivering eight assists.
Those two have been the story all year and they’re building an even greater case to be named all-stars.
But it’s Thompson who is consistently rounding out the attack. Thompson entered the night averaging 15.7 points per game for Golden State and connected on 4-for-8 three-pointers against the Bobcats.
“He’s been special, and the scary thing is he is only going to get better,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “These two guys in the backcourt is a thing of beauty. You’re shocked when they miss it.”
His teammates beam like older brothers when talking about the maturation of Thompson.
“He seems to have a lot better feel for the game,” Lee said following the win. “He’s always been one of the best shooters in the league, but he’s also making a lot better passes and he’s taking on a bunch of challenges defensively.”
Veteran Carl Landry added: “If you ask me, he’s an experienced player. He doesn’t play like a second-year player. At times we all make mistakes, it doesn’t matter what year you are, but Klay does a good job of adjusting to mistakes he makes and he’s becoming a better player.”
The balance of this Warriors team comes from the contributions of not just their two stars and Thompson, but also the even younger nucleus of rookies Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli.
Jackson discussed the rebounding and paint protection of Ezeli, the off-the-chart intangibles of Green and the aggressiveness of Barnes.
“I have guys that want to be special, that want to be great, that love the game,” Jackson said.
Green continues to impress, and scored 11 points on the night. The Warriors also continued to get production from the bench tandem of Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Landry had 11 points and six rebounds and Jack tallied nine points and six assists.
“We have a great balance of youth and veteran leadership that is going to carry us to a lot of wins this year,” Thompson said postgame.
The Warriors shot 51.8 percent on the night and hit a combined 14-for-27 three-pointers.
Even Andris Biedrins contributed, playing 13 minutes and grabbing seven rebounds.
Thompson noted the balanced effort before the team’s win against Charlotte: “The biggest difference this year is the team atmosphere and team chemistry. No one is out there to get their own and just try to win.”
It was the 14th consecutive loss for the Bobcats (7-19), who were led by 23 points from guard Gerald Henderson and 12 points and 14 rebounds by center Bismack Biyombo.
The Warriors opened to a 21-4 lead and held a 58-49 lead at halftime behind seven-for-12 three-point shooting. Golden State is now a perfect 15-0 when entering the fourth quarter with a lead.
After allowing a season-worst 131 points to Sacramento on Wednesday, the Warriors held the Bobcats to 36.7 percent shooting, the lowest percentage of an opponent all season.
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