OAKLAND -- His shooting form is picture perfect. His demeanor has generally remained carefree and emotionless.
It's the inner confidence of the Warriors' Klay Thompson this season that's different. It's a quality not easily noticed when a player makes basketball look easy. Like the night Thompson calmly lined up a 3-pointer on the left wing at Portland and hit his second game-winning shot of March.
Three days later, during a speaking engagement with students at the Bishop O'Dowd High School theater, Thompson was asked what goes through his mind in pressure situations such as that one. His answer revealed how his mental approach has changed.
"You've got to treat it like any other possession in the game," Thompson said. "I feel like you can't really think about it too much because then you get in your own head. As a rookie, even in my sophomore year in the league, I thought at those points I thought about it too much.
"Even playing with Steph (Curry), that dude just lets it fly. I've seen him take some bad shots and make 'em, so I was like, 'Ah, I could do the same thing.' You just play with the ultimate confidence."
Thompson's newfound level of poise in the clutch and maturing overall game led coach Mark Jackson to amend his preseason declaration that the third-year player was a top-five shooting guard in the NBA.
"I don't think he's appreciated enough," Jackson said. "He's the best two-way shooting guard in the world."
Told of the high praise, Thompson said he loved hearing it from Jackson. It's Jackson whom Mychal Thompson credits for instilling the confidence in his son.
"Mark doesn't pressure his players," said Mychal, who played 12 seasons in the NBA. "He allows them to grow. He gives them time to grow and become men themselves."
Jackson gave Thompson space in dealing with his paternal grandfather's death as he missed his first career NBA game while traveling to the Bahamas for the funeral. After taking three flight segments to get to Portland for the next game, Thompson blocked out distractions and rewarded the Warriors with 27 points and the winning 3-pointer.
Back in the Bahamas, family members had gathered at a relative's house and watched Thompson deliver the dagger. Mychal couldn't quite remain as calm and cool.
"It was a perfect send-off to my father," Mychal said.
Mychal said Klay has told him of a desire to prove he's more than just a spot-up shooter. While averaging 18.2 points per game and shooting 41.3 percent on 3-pointers, Thompson has shown that his play inside the arc can impact the Warriors greatly during their run to the playoffs.
Jackson has seen Thompson, 24, react to defenders intent on stopping his outside shot by driving and attacking the paint. The result has been a career-high 46.3 shooting percentage from 2-point range and more trips to the free-throw line.
The 6-foot-7 Thompson said he also began posting up smaller defenders with the encouragement of assistant coach Lindsey Hunter and Jackson, who have told him to take advantage of mismatches created by teams looking to stop Curry. The staff designed the ball to go to Thompson at Indiana on March 4 when he backed down George Hill and hit the winning turnaround fadeaway with 0.6 seconds left.
"I think earlier in his career, he probably would rush it," Jackson said. "And it comes with being comfortable in those situations because teams are looking to double. You've got to be comfortable and confident, and he certainly is."
To earn Jackson's belief that he's the NBA's top shooting guard on both ends, Thompson has done the job on defense while often being assigned to guard the opposing team's best perimeter threat.
Jackson said Thompson has been "elite" while Mychal hopes for recognition for his son in the form of a spot on the NBA's All-Defense team.
"People may think I'm crazy or roll their eyes, but I'm a pretty good judge of talent, having played against some of the best to ever play," Mychal said. "With your all-around ability, if you continue to work hard and respect the game, you can play the game until you're 40 and be a Hall of Famer. That's what I told him, and not just because he's my son."
To reach that level, Klay knows he must maintain supreme confidence -- even when shots don't fall -- and trust his ability.
"You could be 0 for 10 or 10 for 10, it doesn't matter what you did," he said.
Thompson was asked about what prompted him this season to improve the mental aspect of his game.
"I've still got a lot of room to grow, and if I want to reach my potential, I've got to have that ultimate confidence," Thompson said. "All the best players do."
And what is that potential?
"I have no idea," Thompson said. "That's a good question. Good question."
Memphis (43-28) at Warriors (44-27), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA