Klay Thompson: ‘Going to embrace the heck out of’ 54-point night

klay-thompson-going-to-embrace-the-heck-out-of-54-point-night

SAN FRANCISCO — Before the Golden State Warriors tipped off against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, Klay Thompson had a conversation with Dominique Wilkins. They discussed how Wilkins’ return from an Achilles tendon tear decades ago has made him an inspiration to Thompson, as the Warriors guard has been on a similar journey.

Thompson has spent the early portion of the season searching for the 2019 version of himself, before he tore an ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, only to suffer an Achilles injury right before the start of the 2020-21 season.

His 54 points on 21-of-39 shooting — including 10-of-21 from 3 — in the Warriors’ 143-141 double-overtime win was as close as he has been, he said.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” Thompson said. “There were some hard days for me when I didn’t know that this would be possible in real time. I am just going to embrace the heck out of it.”

His 54 points Monday night were the most since his career-best scoring outing of 60 accomplished in three quarters on Dec. 5, 2016, against the Indiana Pacers. It was Thompson’s fourth career 50-point game and seventh with at least 10 3s.

“He just made shot after shot and play after play. He was incredible,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.

As Thompson has navigated streaks of poor shooting performances, the bottom line the Warriors have emphasized to him is not to force his game and to play within the flow of the offense.

Teammate Draymond Green told him, “You don’t have to be the same Klay that you once were before. When you understand that and you buy into that, then you become the Klay you were before.”

“When you’re as competitive as he is, when you’re as good as he is, it’s tough sometimes,” Green said. “For two years, everybody is doubting you. That same fire toward that doubt is what made you Klay Thompson … you don’t just lose that. That is embedded in you. It’s good to see him settle down. He’s not chasing it anymore, and it’s falling right in his lap. When you are that good, that’s usually what happens.”

Thompson said he feels more relaxed than he was at the start of the season. In late October, his eagerness to be back on the court and to prove naysayers wrong was a disservice to him, he said.

Now, he is playing with a different message in his head: “I have to remind myself daily that [playing for the Warriors] is literally the dream. What matters most is having fun and playing hard. All the numbers, all the big nights will come as long as I do those two things.”

Thompson has been giving himself those pep talks for a while now. And with the Warriors’ roster depleted — including missing Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins indefinitely — it’s even more important for Thompson to listen to himself.

The Warriors were with just nine active players against the Hawks. The second unit was composed of a second-year player, a rookie and a pair of two-way players.

Fatigue was evident. Golden State blew a 21-point lead and missed some big chances in both overtime periods.

At any other point this season, the Warriors might well have dropped this game. They lost their only other overtime game, against the Charlotte Hornets in their second road contest of the season. Thompson missed a potential walk-off shot at the Orlando Magic a few days afterward. And the Warriors dropped a heartbreaker at the Utah Jazz in early December. Green went as far as to call his team fragile.

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“Since I said that, we’ve built an M.O., which is being gritty,” Green said. “No matter what the situation is, we are a team that is going to keep fighting. I don’t think this team had built an identity all year, and we are starting to build one. It’s coming at a great time.”

Against the Hawks, Golden State guard Donte DiVincenzo corralled a crucial offensive rebound then knocked down a tying 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, after Thompson and Jordan Poole had each missed from long range during the same sequence.

Even with all of the Warriors’ big shots down the stretch — including a 3-pointer by Green — Golden State had an unlikely hero, as Kevon Looney tipped in the winner on his own offensive rebound as the final buzzer sounded in the second overtime after missing moments before.

“The first one, I rushed it really quickly, and I just realized nobody was panicking or celebrating,” Looney said about missing his first attempt. “I knew I had time to go back up.”

Looney had a career-high 20 rebounds (10 offensive) to go with 14 points and five assists.

“Everybody dreams about getting a game winner, so whenever you have a chance … it’s a great moment,” Looney said. “Especially in a double-overtime game where everybody was exhausted.”

Thanks to Looney, the undermanned defending NBA champions ran their season-best winning streak to five games. They also have posted six straight victories at home.

The Warriors had four players log at least 44 minutes on Monday. Thompson played a game-high and season-high 46 minutes.

“My tank is on E,” Thompson said afterward during his on-court interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Thank god for Kevon Looney, man.”

Earlier this season, Thompson was on a tight minutes restriction after not being cleared to participate in live-action portions of training camp and sitting out of the preseason games. He still hasn’t been cleared to play in both sides of back-to-back games.

“I would not have been able to do this a few months ago, so this is a huge milestone for me,” Thompson said. “It’s a big confidence booster, individually. We’re almost nearing the halfway point. It feels great to feel like I’m getting better with every game. I know I’ll be more consistent as the season goes on … after 30 games under my belt, I’m feeling wonderful.”

 

Warriors observations: Klay Thompson erupts for 54 in wild double OT win

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors’ start to 2023 was much like 2022. This team can’t keep things simple and easy.

They once led by as many as 21 points. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo at the end of regulation tied it all up. Two overtimes later, Kevon Looney beat the buzzer this time, giving the Warriors an absolutely wild 143-141 win over the Atlanta Hawks in double overtime.

Klay Thompson had Chase Center going bonkers, scoring 54 points. That’s his second-most ever in a single game, and his most since his two brutal leg injuries. He went 21-for-39 from the field and 10-for-21 on 3-pointers, also adding seven rebounds.

Jordan Poole scored 28 points, but was an ugly 11-for-31 from the field and 2-for-12 from deep. He also turned the ball over six times.

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On a night where the Warriors (20-18) were more than shorthanded, Anthony Lamb was the first player off their bench. For good reasons, too. Lamb scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added four assists.

Here are three takeaways from the Warriors’ fifth straight win.

Klay’s Continued Hot Start

How can the Warriors get points on the scoreboard without Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins? Thompson recently has been getting Curry’s rotation, meaning he plays the entire first quarter. That appears to be working pretty well, too.

Through the first 12 minutes Monday night, he scored 16 points — going 6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-6 on 3-point attempts. This isn’t anything new. Over Klay’s last three games, he has been red-hot early on.

He scored 14 first-quarter points against the Charlotte Hornets and 15 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers before his 16 on the Hawks. That’s 45 first-quarter points in Thompson’s last three games. It’s not like he has been chucking during this stretch either. Instead, it has been efficient shooting.

 

Klay Thompson puts 54 points on Hawks, but it’s Kevon Looney who plays hero as Warriors win fifth straight

Thompson hit 10 3-pointers while Looney had the game-winning tip-in as time expired

Klay Thompson torched the Hawks for 54 points on 10 3-pointers on Monday, but it was Kevon Looney who played hero with the game-winning tip as time expired to give Golden State a wild 143-141 overtime victory. It was the Warriors’ fifth straight win, and their league-leading 17th at home.

Now if they could just figure out the road, on which they are a league-worst 3-16, but that’s a story for another day. Right now, it’s all about Thompson starting to round into his old form. The man has never been shy about jacking up shots, but his discretion has gotten decidedly better as the season has progressed.

Still, Thompson has launched an incredible 108 shots, including 60 3-pointers, over his last four games. He’s posting 46-41 shooting splits over that span. The Warriors will gladly take that, particularly with Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins still out.

Thompson finished Monday 21 for 39 from the field. He was 10 for 21 from 3. Most refreshingly, he was just 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. That’s not an efficient model, but for pure entertainment value, you can’t beat a guy dropping 21 buckets, mostly from jumpers, against just two freebies. No foul hunting to be found here.

This was the second-highest scoring output of Thompson’s career, trailing only his 60-point effort that came in just 29 minutes against the Indiana Pacers in 2016.

Monday was Thompson’s fourth career 50-point game, and seventh game in which he’s made at least 10 3-pointers. He has done the latter twice this season already, previously registering 10 triples against Houston back in November. Thompson is also the sixth player in NBA history to record at least 50 points and 10 3-pointers in the same game.

Don’t think I forgot about Looney, who went for 14 points and 21 rebounds, including 11 of the offensive variety, yet was somehow a game-worst minus-20 during his 32 minutes. Single-game plus-minus numbers continue to be worthless measurements. Here’s the winning tip:

The Warriors have three games remaining on their season-long eight-game homestand, and they’re all very winnable against Detroit, Orlando and Phoenix, which will still be without Devin Booker. Curry and Wiggins should be back soon. Are things actually starting to come together in the Bay?

 

Player grades: Warriors vs. Hawks

Assessing every Golden State player’s performance from the team’s 143-141 double-overtime victory over Atlanta.

Wow. Everyone catch their breath? The Golden State Warriors played in an absolute thriller on Monday night, blowing a 21-point lead against the Atlanta Hawks, then overcoming a late eight-point deficit, all to win 143-141 in double overtime. It gives them a five-game winning streak, which is a season best, despite the fact that Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins have been sidelined for all five games.

Now let’s grade the players after the intense game. As always, grades are weighted based on my expectations for each player, with a “B” representing the average performance.

Note: True-shooting percentage (TS) is a measure of scoring efficiency that accounts for threes and free throws. Entering Monday’s games, league average TS was 57.7%.

Draymond Green
45 minutes, 5 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2-for-5 shooting, 1-for-1 threes, 50.0% TS, +9

Dray is being asked to carry a huge playmaking load with Curry sidelined, and only having two turnovers despite playing 45 minutes is wildly impressive. As was the defense in this game. Don’t let the 141 points that the Warriors allowed fool you (they came in an extra 10 minutes of action, after all) … Dray’s defense was sensational.

He also had one of the biggest plays of the game, hitting a shot clock buzzer-beating three with about 43 seconds left in double OT to push the lead to five.

Kevon Looney
32 minutes, 14 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 4 fouls, 4-for-8 shooting, 6-for-8 free throws, 60.8% TS, -20

Looney’s plus/minus is rather shocking, and by “shocking” I mean a reminder that you shouldn’t read too much into single-game individual plus/minus. Still, the lineups with Looney work best when the Warriors don’t need to push, and for many stretches of this game they really needed to push.

But Looney grounded the defense, and gobbled up a massive 20 boards, which helped the Warriors win the rebounding battle by 16. His presence on the glass can’t be understated, especially with JaMychal Green, James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, and Jonathan Kuminga sidelined.

Most importantly, though, was the fact that Looney had the game-winner on a walk-off put-back.

What an amazing moment for a player who deserves all the flowers. You hit a buzzer-beating game winner, you get an A+. That’s the rule.

Post-game bonus: Led the team in rebounds, worst plus/minus on the team.

Klay Thompson
46 minutes, 54 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls, 21-for-39 shooting, 10-for-21 threes, 2-for-2 free throws, 67.7% TS, +13

If Donovan Mitchell hadn’t become just the seventh player in NBA history to score 70 points in a game just a few hours prior, then Klay would have been the talk of the NBA town on Monday night.

Instead, he’ll have to settle for an absolute vintage Klay night, in which he had the second-highest point total of his career, managed to fire 39 shots while A) being super efficient and B) not forcing anything, and looked like he was having the time of his life.

Donte DiVincenzo
44 minutes, 8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 3-for-9 shooting, 2-for-8 threes, 44.4% TS, +7

DDV had an inefficient scoring night, but we can overlook it since he had the most important shot of the game: a game-tying three-pointer with 0.6 seconds left in regulation.

He was pretty awesome in every other area of the game, as he crashed the glass, helped run the offense, and played some sweet defense on Trae Young.

Jordan Poole
45 minutes, 28 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 6 turnovers, 2 fouls, 11-for-31 shooting, 2-for-12 threes, 4-for-6 free throws, 41.6% TS, +7.

A bit of an odd game for JP. He scored a bit, and there were plenty of times in this game where the Warriors desperately needed a bucket and Poole delivered.

On the other hand, he was pretty darn inefficient, and he had a few really rough plays in the closing moments. With about 15 seconds left in regulation, and the Warriors trailing by a point, Poole rushed when he didn’t need to, and dribbled off his thigh and out of bounds. And at the end of the first overtime, he was unable to get a good look off, and ran the clock out instead of passing to a teammate.

I don’t think the Warriors win this game without Poole, but it still was a sub-par performance by his standards. Poole has really struggled with turnovers since being asked to carry more of the offense. He’s had more assists than turnovers just twice during Curry’s nine-game absence, and during that time has turned the ball over 46 times to just 33 assists.

Anthony Lamb
33 minutes, 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 4 fouls, 7-for-12 shooting, 2-for-6 threes, 1-for-2 free throws, 66.0% TS, +1

Lamb played huge minutes in the first half when the Warriors build up a 21-point lead. He made some clutch shots and some big time hustle plays. I thought he fell off a bit in the second half, and tried a little hard to be the hero down the stretch.

But on the whole, it was a very strong performance from him, and he helped the Warriors go small when they desperately needed to.

Patrick Baldwin Jr.
11 minutes, 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 2 fouls, 3-for-7 shooting, 2-for-6 threes, 57.1% TS, -3

Baldwin is starting to look more and more comfortable on defense, which allows Steve Kerr to play him more and more. He’s still unlikely to be a rotation player until next year, but he’s firmly at the point where the Dubs can play him when they’re shorthanded, which they might be for a while. He had an awesome second quarter.

Ty Jerome
22 minutes, 3 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 1 foul, 1-for-6 shooting, 0-for-3 threes, 1-for-1 free throws, 23.3% TS, +2

Jerome just kind of existed in this game. You didn’t really notice his contributions, good or bad. Rough game shooting the basketball, and couldn’t put many stats up in 22 minutes. But I thought he defense was really good in this contest.

Moses Moody
12 minutes, 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 2-for-4 shooting, 0-for-2 threes, 2-for-5 free throws, 48.4% TS, -6

Moody had a few big plays in this game, but he continues to just not do quite enough. He’s still very passive at both ends of the court, and whatever Kerr is asking him to do he’s not doing, because he’s not getting any notable minutes.

 

Warriors get 54 from Klay Thompson in wild double OT win to punctuate improbable five-game win streak

SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors attempted a franchise record 59 3s on Monday night. Draymond Green didn’t take any of the first 57. But the ball bounced into his arms late in the shot clock as double overtime dipped under a minute left. The Warriors led by two. He uncorked a rushed fling and buried it, bumping the lead to five with 43 seconds left.

It felt like a fitting cap to one of the zaniest nights in an NBA arena this season. But the fireworks weren’t finished. The Hawks hit a 3, forced a miss and got a Trae Young floater with eight seconds left, erasing a five-point lead in a half-minute. It was tied again. Triple overtime felt destined.

But the final twist of the night arrived without warning. The Warriors didn’t have a timeout left. Young hit the floater and lingered on the baseline a bit long, presumably awaiting a whistle. Green demanded the inbound and pushed it into the frontcourt, creating an open look for Klay Thompson — the night’s hero, sitting on 54 points — for about as clean a jumper as you’ll often find in the closing seconds of a tie game.

Clang. The hottest shooter in the arena missed the dagger. But Kevon Looney had bulldozed down to the block, his place of residence, and carved out space against Dejounte Murray, the scrambling Hawks guard forced into an impossible box out situation. Looney tried to one-hand tap the rebound and later admitted he rushed it.

“I didn’t realize I had that much time,” Looney said.

The ball bounced back to him again. Looney realized he had an extra half-second for a more controlled tap. He grabbed what was his 20th rebound of the night and banked in the layup. Warriors win: 143-141.

One of the wilder statistics in recent Warriors’ lore is their overtime record since November 2018. Entering Monday night, they’d been 1-13 in their last 14 overtime games, an odd imbalance in what is historically somewhere near a 50-50 proposition.

The most recent of those 13 overtime losses came in Charlotte early in the season. The Warriors blew a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation to one of the worst teams in the NBA and then were outplayed in the extra five-minute session. Curry missed a regulation game-winner that he blamed on his thirst for hero ball in his hometown. It’s high on the list of losses that have stung the Warriors most.

But it doesn’t top the list. That distinction belongs to the road game in Utah, where the Warriors blew a four-point lead in the final 10 seconds due to a Thompson defensive gaffe and a Jordan Poole turnover.

“Mike Dunleavy turned to me after the game and said: ‘That’s payback for the Utah game in Salt Lake,’” Steve Kerr said. “You usually lose a game or two like that and win a game or two like that during the course of the season. Tonight was our night to pull one out.”

The Warriors went up 21 in the first half on a Hawks team that looked initially disinterested. But the script flipped in the third quarter. Atlanta finally cared. The Warriors had some defensive lapses, missed some open shots and Poole’s errant shooting and recent turnover trouble bit them at the wrong time. Poole went 3 of 10 and missed all four of his 3s in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks led by three with nine seconds left in regulation. The Warriors designed a play for a curling Thompson, sitting on 44 points at the time, to break free for a corner 3. He got a decent look. He missed it. Poole corralled the rebound but rushed an attempt from the corner. It was blocked by DeAndre Hunter and batted away from Poole. In that moment, it felt over.

But the Hunter bat — Vlade Divac to Robert Horry style — just happened to land in Donte DiVincenzo’s hands with enough time to fire up a quick 3. DiVincenzo swished it. The game went to overtime.

Warriors get a game-tying 3 from Donte DiVincenzo with 0.6 seconds left after a miss and a block eventually pinballs out to him. Forces overtime. pic.twitter.com/i98y7zwLEw

Three games ago, the Warriors trailed the Jazz by six entering the fourth quarter. They were down four with seven minutes left. They held Utah to 13 points in the fourth and wrestled away a win. Two nights later, the Blazers were up eight on them with 4:14 left. The Warriors closed the game on a 16-2 run to pull out an even more improbable late-game victory.

Monday, at certain late-game junctures, might’ve been the most unlikely to end up in the win column. But the shorthanded Warriors escaped, extending their season-long streak to five wins during what felt like a dangerous stretch, considering the accumulating injury adversity.

Steph Curry is still rehabbing a shoulder injury. Andrew Wiggins is healed from his adductor strain but missed a 14th straight game because of two recent illnesses. James Wiseman twisted his ankle during a 3-on-3 workout that included Wiggins last week and has missed the last two games. Jonathan Kuminga’s foot swelled up Friday postgame and he was in a walking boot on Monday.

The Warriors left their most recent 1-5 road trip with a 15-18 record and an injured Curry. If you knew Wiggins wouldn’t return and the unavailable bodies would only pile higher, it was conceivable to believe a spiral deeper down the standings was coming, perhaps too far for recovery. They’d been 1-6 without Curry to that moment and worse than the league-worst Detroit Pistons when he’d been off the floor this season.

But they’ve reconfigured their rotation, used some Chase Center magic and cobbled together a five-game win streak that has sent them from 15-18 to 20-18, currently tied for the eighth seed in the crowded West. Seriously. The stumbling Suns are also 20-18. The Warriors are now 1.5 games ahead of the Jazz and three games up on the 17-21 Timberwolves, sitting outside the play-in bracket.

But it’s time for the Warriors to look upward. Wiggins is expected back this week. Curry has been given requisite breathing room for a patient rehab as he readies his shoulder this month. The Warriors only play three games in the next 10 days and they’re all at home against beatable teams: Pistons, Magic, Suns. There’s reason to believe they bring him back to a realistic chase for homecourt seeding.

The Kings are currently fifth in the conference with a 19-16 record. The Mavericks are fourth at 22-16. That’s only two away in the loss column. The Nuggets are the top seed at 24-13. The Grizzlies are second at 23-13. Nobody is running away with anything.

“I told y’all this before,” Green said. “We get in the playoffs, I don’t care who we play or what seed we are, don’t nobody want to play us in the playoffs.”

What matters most for the Warriors is what they’ve found while Curry and Wiggins have been out. DiVincenzo has solidified himself as a reliable bench player in a winning setting. He made a ton of huge plays (again) down the stretch against the Hawks, including some patient transition assists to Thompson, traffic rebounds and that game-tying 3.

DiVincenzo’s emergence lengthens the (fully healthy) rotation to seven (behind the starters and Poole) and Kuminga’s emergence stretches it to eight. Anthony Lamb and Ty Jerome have been giving adequate fill-in minutes. Patrick Baldwin Jr. hit two more 3s and continues to flash an intriguing upside. Wiseman looked as aware as he’s ever looked before the ankle tweak. Andre Iguodala scrimmaged with G-Leagues on Monday and is getting closer. Sturdier rotation options are materializing.

“Strength in numbers, baby,” Thompson said.

Thompson has played four of the five games during this homestand, looking fresh with the extra rest and lack of travel. He’s scored 24, 29, 31 and 54 in the four wins. Those 54 points — 13 more than in any game since his two injuries — came on 39 shots, a career-high. He made 21 of them, including 10 3s. He’s getting his wind and his legs back and this more spread out schedule is similar to the playoffs, when he will be needed most.

But there has to be some level of concern about the growing burden on the Warriors’ remaining healthy players. Thompson played 46 minutes on Monday night. Green, whose foot became sore during the recent road trip, played 45, holding down a depleted frontcourt next to Looney, who never sits. DiVincenzo played 44 minutes. Poole played 45, looking exhausted as the lead creator.

“There’s a reason I gave the guys the weekend off,” Kerr said. “No practice the last two days. Tomorrow will be a get-what-you-need day. All the guys who played 40 minutes will be off their feet. We got to get through this stretch and get some bodies back soon and take some pressure of these guys.”

Is it an overburden

“Nah. I’m paid to play basketball, brother,” Green said. “You like to kind of eye the schedule and figure out what (rest) needs to happen at different times. But we don’t have that luxury right now. So it is what it is. Regardless of how I feel, it don’t matter. I gotta play and we gotta win. For the most part, I feel pretty good. But I’m tired as hell right now. Sore right now after playing 46 minutes or whatever. But Wednesday I’ll be ready to go. Then when we play again? Saturday? I’ll be ready to go again on Saturday. That’s our scenario. You wish it wasn’t that way but it is.”

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