Klay Thompson explains why guarding Kyrie Irving is a “challenge”


Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is one of the toughest players in the NBA to defend, and few guys know that better than Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

Thompson had to defend Irving quite a bit when the two battled in the NBA Finals in three consecutive seasons from 2015 through 2017. Irving was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers during those NBA Finals matchups, and he became one of the most clutch players of his era in 2016 when he scored 41 points in Game 5 and hit the winning shot in Game 7 to deliver the Cavs their first championship.

Thompson and his Warriors teammate Stephen Curry recently sat down with Detroit Pistons legends Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas for a lengthy interview on NBA TV. One player brought up during the conversation was Irving, and Thompson shed some light on his mentality going into matchups against the All-Star guard. 

Thompson: "Kyrie, I always think about the times we had going against him in Cleveland. He actually reminds me a lot of (Isiah Thomas') game. He's slippery, too, he can go either way, finish with either hand. I had fun guarding him for many series."

Thomas: "What do you mean you had fun guarding him?"

Thompson: "It's like, a challenge."

Thomas (laughing): "See, this is something Steph and I can't understand. How you think, like, 'Oh, I have fun guarding him.' Me and Steph are like, 'No, we don't want to guard that guy.' "

Thompson: "You look at the scouting report and you see what the matchup is, and some nights you'd be like, 'Oh, I got a night off.' But then when you see (Kyrie), you're like, 'Oh, I don't got (a night off). I got to get my rest tonight. I got to be ready for this.' There's some guys you be like, 'OK, I can relax a little more tonight,' but you're like, 'Nah, not with (Kyrie).' "

Irving is one of the best dribblers in league history, and his ability to score with either hand while taking contact at the rim is quite impressive. He put on a show for Celtics fans on Christmas Day with 41 points in an overtime victory against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The next matchup against Irving for Thompson and the Warriors is Jan. 26 when Boston hosts Golden State at TD Garden. 

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