SAN FRANCISCO — Less than three minutes remained, and all the Warriors needed to put the Grizzlies away was one dagger from one of their prolific scorers. Klay Thompson rose up and hit a 3-pointer, his eighth of the game, and sent Chase Center into a frenzy.
Thompson ran to the baseline to celebrate with them, holding up five fingers on one hand and one finger on the other, beating his chest. “Game 6 Klay” had returned, and Thompson wanted everyone to know it. And he was needed.
The Grizzlies, fighting for their lives, had an answer for every run. Still fending off a challenge in a close game, the Warriors just needed a few plays to make the score untouchable. Those final minutes saw Andrew Wiggins hit two key 3s, Steph Curry hit three after scuffling all game and Kevon Looney play every second of the fourth quarter while vacuuming eight of his 22 total rebounds.
But Thompson’s 3-pointer late was the cherry on top of a 30-point quintessential “Game 6 Klay” performance that was the difference between another four-hour flight to Memphis for Game 7 and a 110-96 clinching victory on Friday night.
“It’s just something that comes naturally,” Thompson said. “I don’t, you know, go to sleep last night thinking of scoring 30 or shooting the ball well. I was just thinking about how far I’ve come and how grateful I am to have another close-out game at Chase Center.”
For the unfamiliar, “Game 6 Klay” is a nickname for Thompson that began in the 2016 playoffs, when he scored 41 points and playoff-record 11 3-pointers in a Game 6 win against Oklahoma City, helping Golden State erase a 3-1 deficit on their way to the Finals. In those Finals, Thompson scored 25 in the Game 6 loss to the Cavaliers.
He scored 35 points against Houston in the 2018 Western Conference Finals and, in the 2019 NBA Finals, had 30 points, including the two free throws he drained with a torn ACL.
Steph Curry has shared the floor with Thompson for every “Game 6 Klay” moment — from the highs of the first to the devastation of his last. After two years, the feeling was the same.
“From the first shot he hit, it was like — this is what he’s been looking forward to since he got hurt back in the 2019 Finals,” Curry said. “It’s a different joy. It’s a different energy.”
From the tip, Thompson kept a spark going for an offense struggling to find its stride. He hit his first 3-pointer on his first attempt, then his second just a minute later. The Warriors clinging desperately to a slim lead at half, hope lied in Thompson’s consistency — he had 17 points and five 3-pointers.
The Thompson who pressed in desperate search to get back to where he was pre-injury seemed relieved of those mental cobwebs, thriving under the Game 6 pressure like clockwork. For Draymond Green, his eight rebounds and three blocked shots were positively “Game 6 Klay,” too.
“I tell y’all all the time, one of the toughest guys and most competitive guys I’ve ever played with — no, probably the toughest and most competitive player I’ve ever played with, and it showed up tonight,” Green said.
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For Thompson, this Game 6 moment felt a little different than the others. All season he’s reflected on how two seasons rehabbing two injuries changed his perspective. Outwardly, he’s more appreciative that he can put on these otherworldly performances, even if he still can’t explain them.
“It felt better,” Thompson said of his latest Game 6 moment. “Honestly, especially the perspective I’ve gained from the injuries I’ve had to know be able to compete at the highest level and be one of the final four teams, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, honestly.
“It’s truly amazing and it just inspires me to keep going because I think I still have great basketball ahead of me.”