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Warriors guard Klay Thompson scores 17 points in return after being sidelined for 2 1/2 years with devastating injuries

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 10, 2022

Michael Wagman Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson couldn’t wait to get his first shot up after more than 2 1/2 years away.

Thompson’s running layup 40 seconds into Golden State’s 96-82 victory over Cleveland on Sunday night was a sign that the five-time All-Star is feeling just fine — even if coach Steve Kerr drew up the play for someone else.

“He wasn’t shy, was he?” Kerr said. “Not that we would ever expect Klay to be shy. I drew up the first play not for him but for him to catch it and move it on. I should have known better.”

Thompson finished with 17 points in his return from two devastating injuries on a night when he was the toast of San Francisco.

Thompson was 7 of 18 from the field and 3 of 8 from 3-point range. He added three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 20 minutes, walking off the court to a thunderous ovation followed by chants of “Klay! Klay!” from the Chase Center crowd.

As for the first play? Thompson said he couldn’t help himself.

“I was so excited I saw a lane to the basket that I just took the opportunity,” Thompson said. ” After that I thought it was going to be one of those nights where I might be unconscious. I did not shoot as well as I wanted to but I’m so happy I can even look at the stat sheet and see my name there. It’s been a long run. I’m not going to say it equivalent to winning a championship but it was pretty close.”

Stephen Curry had 29 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Jordan Poole added 14 points for Golden State. The Warriors snapped a two-game losing streak to tie Phoenix for the NBA lead at 30-9.

Lamar Stevens had 17 points and four rebounds for Cleveland.

Thompson missed 941 days and hadn’t played since tearing the ACL in his left knee in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto. While rehabbing from surgery for that injury, he tore his right Achilles tendon scrimmaging on his own in November 2020.

The five-time All-Star finally made his much-anticipated return, and reached two career milestones — 12,000 points and 1,800 3-pointers.

At one point Thompson brought the crowd to its feet when he drove around a defender near the 3-point line and scored on a jarring one-handed dunk. Thompson snarled and pounded his chest as he walked back toward midcourt. Moments later he made his first 3-pointer to go over 12,000 points and put the Warriors up 49-41.

“He’s been talking about how he feels and what’s going to be the last thing to come back, and that was the answer,” Curry said about Thompson’s dunk. “It was amazing to watch and the obviously the building went going crazy from start to finish.”

After spending time on a stationary bicycle, Thompson started the third quarter and made three consecutive shots, including his 1,800th 3-pointer.

“I tried to visualize this moment for years,” Thompson said. “I’m just excited to get it out of the way now and I can get back in the rhythm of things. This is unbelievable. This is worth every second.”

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