Klay Thompson’s latest Game 6 magic means more to the Warriors star

Klay Thompson’s latest Game 6 magic means more to the Warriors star

SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson punched Mike Brown to the punch. Thompson has only known one NBA home since the Warriors drafted him in 2011. But Brown, the Warriors’ acting head coach with Steve Kerr moving to COVID-19, has been on staff with Golden State for more than half of Thompson’s professional career beginning with the 2016-17 season.

Brown has seen the ups and downs that Thompson has gone through. He wanted to thank him for his latest star performance Friday night at the Chase Center after the Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 110-96 in the Western Conference Semifinals. But Thompson had a message for his coach first.

One that only Klay could say at that precise moment.

“As I was about to hug him, I was ready to tell him, ‘I love you and great work,'” Brown told reporters. “I started saying that. It was crazy, the only thing he said was ‘Mike Brown, I’ll miss you next year when you’re in Sacramento. I’ll miss you yelling at me and telling me to get back on transitional defense.’

“I said, ‘Okay, Klay.’ That’s Clay.”

Since the Warriors made him their top draft pick nearly 11 years ago, Thompson has been nothing short of a 1-of-1. His final memory sent the Grizzlies home forever.

Thompson has a long history of exploits when playing a Game 6. Maybe there’s something in his water, maybe it’s the smell of the sea. Whatever it is, everyone knows what could and probably will happen when he hits the floor for game six of a playoff series.

Yes it happened again. The second he flew his first 3-point attempt, it was clear what we were getting into.

Thompson ended his night and the Grizzlies’ season with a game-high 30 points. He went 11-to-22 from the field, making his first five 3-pointers and finishing 8-to-14 from long range. This was not just a Splash Brother shooting demonstration, but a full game to get one step closer to the ultimate prize.

While Thompson made the nets drip in front of the home fans, he also added eight rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Whether it was racking up points on the scoreboard, fighting for rebounds, or playing solid defense against Grizzlies sniper Desmond Bane, Thompson answered the call whenever the Warriors needed to dial his number.

This one meant more.

“It felt better,” Thompson said of his last legendary game 6. “Honestly, especially the perspective that the injuries have given me. Now to be able to compete at the highest level and be able to be in the last four teams, it’s a feeling that’s honestly hard to describe.

“It’s really amazing, it just inspires me to keep going because I think we still have great basketball ahead of us.”

The last time Thompson found himself in a Game 6, he put on a show trying to keep the Warriors’ season alive before having the next two and a half years of his career taken away from him. He scored 30 points and made four of his six 3-point attempts in 32 minutes in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, with the Warriors trailing three to two.

His final two points of the night came from the free-throw line after limping out of the tunnel with a torn left cruciate ligament. Thompson emptied both free throw attempts and even ran back on defense. There is a Klay Thompson and there is only a Game 6 Klay.

Fast-forward nearly three years later, and the climax of Thompson’s first crack into a Game 6 since that heartbreaking night north of the border came with his final shot of the night. It was a 28-foot-3 pointer, assisted by the game’s other hero, Kevon Looney, that gave the Warriors a 105-92 lead with just under three minutes to go, forcing a Grizzlies timeout.

The game finally felt out of reach and the 32-year-old was finally able to unleash all his emotions of the last 35 months.

“Well, 30 sounds a lot better than 27,” Thompson joked of his reaction after his most recent 3-point win. “On top of that, I’ve had a lot of pent-up energy over the last few years and to be in that situation and seal the game there, everything came out.

“I just know how hard it is to get to this part of the season and it all fell into place for me. And seeing the Warrior fans is a moment where I tried to enjoy the few seconds I had.”

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Draymond Green called his longtime teammate “the toughest, most competitive player I’ve ever played with”. Steph Curry called it a “different joy, a different energy.” In reality, everything felt right once Thompson was back on the mountaintop and Game 6 was calling his name.

The above trio have reached the Western Conference Finals for the sixth straight year if they are all healthy. They’ve reached the NBA Finals the last five times. That’s where they’ve always felt, and every bead of sweat that fell on the hardwoods in San Francisco on Friday night earned them four more victories in a showdown of the best of the West versus the best of the East.

Countless long days turned into sleepless nights. All the self-reflection, all the hard work, all the questions turned into answers were worth it.

Heroes are remembered, legends never die. Game 6 Klay is forever.

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