On Sunday, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will renew acquaintances at the Chase Center in San Francisco. Thankfully, or not thankfully depending on how you look at it, the Cavs don’t have to play to the Dubs on the second night of a back-to-back, as they did before late last season. Instead, the Cavaliers will play the Warriors on the first night of a back-to-back on Sunday, as they’ll be in Sacramento to play the Sacramento Kings on Monday.
And perhaps most notably, Sunday’s game in Golden State will mark the return of Klay Thompson.
It feels fitting that the Cavaliers are the opponent for Klay’s return to the court, given these two teams had quite the rivalry for four years from 2015-2018, during which Thompson and them had quite the history as opponents themselves. But it’s also frustrating at the same time.
It’s fitting the Cavs are the opponent in Thompson’s return to the floor, but it’s a source of frustration as well.
Klay hasn’t played in an NBA game since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors at Oracle Arena in Oakland. In Game 6, Thompson tore his ACL which forced him to miss the 2020 season. Thompson was supposed to return the following season, but then he tore his Achilles. So, it will for sure be significant when Thompson steps back on the court.
When the Cavaliers hosted the Warriors at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse back on Nov. 18, the Cavs had a 22-9 lead at one point early on. But Golden State was able to close the gap, however, Cleveland was still able to hang with Golden State for about 3 and-a-half quarters.
But the combination of Cleveland’s lack of depth with them shorthanded then, along with Stephen Curry dropping 40 points, including 9 3-pointers, sank the Cavaliers 104-89. It’s kind of scary to think about how much more lopsided the score could’ve been had Thompson been there, if healthy.
When looking back at the 2016 NBA Finals, specifically Game 5, Thompson was absolutely lighting it up in the first half from 3-point range. Even though Draymond Green was suspended, it was pretty nerve-wracking to watch. It appeared as though Klay Thompson was going to shoot the Warriors to the title. But that’s what Thompson can do, especially when he’s paired with Curry. Of course, this wasn’t the case as we all know what would eventually happen.
After everything the Cavs and Dubs went through from 2015-2018, the two teams will forever be linked to each other. Even though it’s been six years since the Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead, you can imagine that Steph, Draymond, and Klay have some animosity towards the Cavaliers. This is interesting because Golden State got the upper hand 3-1 in terms of the NBA Finals (although many fans and experts think if the Cavs were at full strength in 2015, they would’ve beaten the Warriors).
Klay was a big factor throughout the entire four-year run between Cleveland and Golden State, and his shooting was breathtaking to watch. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs would have the momentum going in their direction during a game, and then Thompson would make some type of play to swing the pendulum back in Golden State’s direction.
Given the connection between Cleveland and Golden State and all of their history, it feels fitting that Klay will be making his return to the court on Sunday at Chase Center for the Cavaliers against the Warriors.