The reasoning for West’s intense belief in Thompson has become evident as the narratives surrounding injuries to Thompson and Love are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.
An inadvertent elbow to the back of Love’s head from Harrison Barnes prevented him from playing in Game 3 as he entered the league’s concussion protocol.
Without Love in the lineup, Cleveland captured a 120-90 victory, becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to win a game by 30 points after dropping a contest by 30 in the same series.
The return home, coupled with breakout performances from Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, along with another dominant outing from LeBron James, enabled the Cavaliers to avoid elimination in Friday’s Game 4.
Cleveland has a higher net efficiency rating when Love is on the floor in the playoffs and regular season, but if he is cleared to play, there is uncertainty if a spot in the starting lineup remains available for him.
A bruised thigh, the result of a collision with Timofey Mozgov late in the first quarter, kept Thompson out for five minutes Wednesday night.
When he stepped back onto the floor, the former Washington State star provided an immediate impact, pouring in 10 second quarter points, but struggled for the rest of the night.
Thompson is expected to play in Game 4, as the injury isn’t severe enough for him to sit out a critical game.
“It’s just sore. It doesn’t hold you back, but it’s just there,” Thompson said. “A lot of guys got those at this point of the year, so you gotta play though it.”
Thompson has been vital during the 2016 playoff run for the Warriors, leading the NBA with 83 made 3-point field goals (25 more than Curry) and ranking ninth among all playoff performers with a 24.1 point per game average in the post season.
Since the trade negotiations between the Timberwolves and Golden State broke down, Thompson has flourished, capturing a gold medal with Team USA at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, was twice chosen as an All-Star twice and was selected as an All-NBA Third team member each of the past two years.
By not breaking up the back court pairing of Thompson and point guard Stephen Curry, the duo has developed into the most potent long range shooting pairing the league has ever seen.
During the regular season, the combination of Curry and Thompson connected 678 times from 3-point range, matching the total the entire Oklahoma City roster managed and finishing with more than 13 other teams managed all season.
The two have alternated as the featured player for Golden State throughout the post season, as Curry set a league record by scoring 17 points during an overtime session as he led the team to a critical Game 5 victory over Portland in the Western Conference semifinals.
While facing elimination on the road against the Thunder, Thompson responded by shattering an NBA record with 11 conversions from beyond the arc, part of a 41 point effort to keep Golden State’s pursuit of a second consecutive title still alive.
Only six players have hit 20 or more 3-pointers during the 2016 playoffs and connected on a higher percentage than the 43.5 percent Thompson is shooting from beyond the arc.
One of those players in Love, as he 44 of his 84 made shots in the playoffs have come from downtown.
The impact provided by Love is often overlooked, as his averages of 16.5 points and 9.4 rebounds aren’t as gaudy as the figures he posted as the franchise player in Minnesota.
The year prior to being dealt to Cleveland, Love posted 65 double-doubles and three triple-doubles as he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
Two years later, his scoring average has dropped 10.1 points, largely as a result of playing alongside Irving and James, and he has failed to post a rebounding average in double figures after doing so in five consecutive seasons with the Timberwolves.
The 27-year-old opened the post season with eight consecutive double-double performances and has produced 10 double-doubles in 16 playoff games this year, but his defensive lapses, especially against Golden State, has prompted coach Tyronn Lue to consider altering his rotation, even with Love healthy.
Love remains embroiled in trade rumors, while Thompson is an untouchable asset for a team hoping to solidify itself among the greatest the league has ever seen.