Warriors’ Klay Thompson remains a wild card in NBA Finals

There was a moment in Game 2 of the NBA Finals when Klay Thompson sprinted across the court from the Boston bench to the Warriors bench, flying under the rim before precisely curling around a screen for a three-point shot in rhythm .

The ball smacked the net – one of the prettiest jump shooters in NBA history did what he did in front of an appreciative home crowd.

If you closed your eyes at that moment, you would have felt like you were at Oracle Arena in Oakland in 2019.

But that was in San Francisco, in the huge Chase Center. And so much has happened to Thompson between his last trip to the Finals and this one.

In two games he has only made 10 of 33 shots. He was attacked in defense. And yet, in his debut season after devastating knee and Achilles injuries, he can still “take it to another level,” according to teammate Stephen Curry.

While the series moves to Boston in a 1-1 draw and both teams have double-digit victories to their credit, Thompson’s role is perhaps its most intriguing storyline.

“Thank you for reminding me of my wonderful shooting share,” he told reporters in Boston on Tuesday. “But I mean, when I saw the film, I probably seemed a little rushed. I wasn’t under my shot. It’s not something I’m immune to. I’ve been through burglaries before. The best part is how you react. Come Game 3, I probably won’t do much differently… just play with great tempo and pump great shots. When I tend to do that, I usually have a great night.

“Most importantly, it feels good to play four to 19 and win by 20. I’d rather do that than 13 to 19 and losing by 10. I’ve been there and it’s never fun.”

Even when he lost two seasons to injury, it was never a question of whether or not Thompson was still having fun. He started boating and streaming videos of himself off the San Francisco coast. He hung out with his dog. And for a shooter like him, the comeback felt almost certain. He’s one of only three players to average at least seven three-point attempts per game while shooting more than 40%.

Still, Thompson is only 50 games back from a time when he stopped breaking the cord with his shots and started tearing critical ligaments and tendons. In those finals he looked somewhere between the player he used to be and who he is now learning to be.

“He’s just pushing a little bit,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “He just wants to do so very well that he takes some bad ones. I’m not particularly concerned about this because this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Klay has a way of reacting to small dips.”

In Game 1, it was jarring to see Boston’s Jaylen Brown attack Thompson while dribbling. Once such a tough defender that the Warriors put him on Chris Paul, he couldn’t stay ahead of Brown while the Boston wing repeatedly pierced the paint, leaving Thompson on his hip.

One of the Warriors’ key adjustments in Game 2 was moving Thompson to Al Horford, which allowed him to help more on defense and keep him away from the leading attacker.

However, shooting might be an easier solution.

For Thompson, he’s just hit the internet where there are plenty of clips confirming he’s heating up to touch a basketball as fast as anyone.

“That’s the beauty of playing these days. You can go to YouTube and look up all your great moments,” Thompson said Tuesday. “It’s only been since Round for me [1] against the Nuggets or last round against the Mavs. I didn’t have a multiple three-pointer game throughout the series, but I stuck with the process, eventually blowing the lid off.

“For me, it’s about keeping the same ‘shooter shooting’ mindset. I’d rather go down swinging than be gun shy.”

In the Conference Finals against Dallas, Thompson only made three-pointers in each of the first two games. His shooting improved and he made eight threes in the close-out game.

Teammates know that Thompson is still a unique offensive weapon in this series, the kind of player who can roll off screens and catch and shoot his way to a breakthrough shift when he hits a handful of jumpers. That was true at Oracle Arena during the Warriors dynasty and is true now as they seek to reclaim NBA glory.

“The story with him has shown that there is no predictor,” Curry told reporters on Tuesday. “He can just take it to another level. Regular season, playoffs, he’s only ever found a way to get going. Especially in the playoffs just to make a loud impact. It’s usually very noisy. His demeanor never really changes…if you saw him now you would think he’s an average of 50 years old in this series. He just has a very confident expression about him.

“That’s the best thing about him.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-06-07/nba-finals-klay-thompson-shooting-stats-warriors-celtics-game-3-preview Warriors’ Klay Thompson remains a wild card in NBA Finals

Emma Bowman

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