The long wait is finally over and the 2017 NBA Finals will tip off tonight, featuring the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Many people are focusing on the matchups between star point guards Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry and star forwards LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and rightfully so, as those are four of the best players in the game today.
However, matchups between secondary players will likely play big parts in deciding the series. For example, Klay Thompson needs to break out of his recent shooting slump if the Warriors are going to earn a Game 1 victory.
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So far this postseason, Thompson has averaged only 14.4 points per game, while shooting 36.4 percent from three-point range and only 38.3 percent overall.
We all know that he can carry an offense by himself when he's hot, as his 60-point night against the Indiana Pacers earlier this season can attest to. Here's what Thompson needs to do on both ends of the court if the Warriors are going to get off to a good start and keep their undefeated streak going.
A lot of the Cavaliers' defensive focus will be on Curry, who led the NBA in three-pointers made this season, so Thompson will draw less attention.
Cleveland's defense isn't as good as the San Antonio Spurs defense the Warriors faced in the Western Conference Finals, so Thompson should have plenty of good looks at the basket.
If he can hit a few threes in the first half on Thursday night, it'll be tough for the Cavs to continue to play him one-on-one, which will open up opportunities for Curry to get going.
Curry and the other Warriors should make it a point to get Thompson some shots early on Thursday night to see if he can burst out of his prolonged playoff slump.
Slowing down the Cavs' offense
Thompson will be asked to do everything from keeping J.R. Smith from getting hot to defending Irving and LeBron when they run the pick-and-roll.
Most of the time, he'll serve as Irving's primary defender, which means he'll have his hands full on that end of the court. Irving is playing well at the moment and is always a threat at the end of games - as he proved in Game 7 of last year's Finals and again when the two teams faced off on Christmas day.
Aside from Draymond Green, Thompson is probably the Warriors' best defender among the starting five, so no matter how he performs on offense, his real value will come in how much he's able to slow down whoever he's matched up against on defense.