SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson produced four pivotal moments over the final 124 seconds on Wednesday night as a collective reminder of his status as a five-time NBA All-Star.
Each game was crucial for the Warriors, and the timing of Game 4 was absolutely brilliant.
With the Warriors trailing Sacramento by one over the final 10 seconds and the Kings throwing their defense at Stephen Curry, Thompson took a pass from Draymond Green, dribbled it to the left corner of the foul line, then pulled up and took a dribble.
The ball fell through the net with 0.2 seconds left, giving the Warriors an ugly 102-101 win in front of a tense but ultimately cheering crowd (18,064) at Chase Center.
“It’s a big, big, big opportunity for us and for him,” Curry said.
“Any time you get a great win in a game, you feel like you’re on Cloud 9,” Thompson said. “If someone isn’t, they’re lying to you. I feel amazing. I could have played better. But it’s a great win and I feel great.”
Thompson’s shooting was punctuated by a series of plays he made late in the game without rhythm, rhyme or anything remotely resembling aesthetic appeal.
There was an assist from the pocket that led to Green’s layup that pulled Golden State within one (95-94) with 2:04 remaining. Then, 36 seconds later, the turnovers took place, as Draymond passed to Klay for a layup that kept the Warriors within one (97-96).
The third play was on the defensive end. With the shot clock sending the Kings into a panic, Harrison Barnes’ shot attempt never made it past Thompson’s right hand. A strip block led to a shot clock violation.
The Warriors have the ball, trailing 99-98, with 38.4 seconds left.
“It was a huge play,” Green said. “For him to not let Harrison make that shot, that’s a big play because you get a shot clock violation, and you have to come down and let us set our offense.
“Such a big play for us down the stretch. Usually, the basketball gods reward you when you make plays like that. When you make loud plays, when you’re engaged, the basketball gods usually reward you.”
The final reward in this case came 38.2 seconds later, when Thompson fired the shot that shook the building.
It was the third game-winning shot within the final five seconds of a regular-season game, one against the Pacers in Indiana in 2014 and the other to defeat the Kings at Oracle Arena in 2018.
“He’s obviously given us a million big shots over the years,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But hitting a goal with 0.2 seconds left when you’re down, that’s exciting for anyone, no matter how many times you’ve done it before.”
For Thompson, the role he played over the final two-plus minutes took away some of the frustration that had built up over the first three quarters. He was 3 of 11 from the field before hitting 3 of 4 in the fourth quarter. He finished with 14 points, three blocks, two rebounds and two assists and a team-best plus-10 in 29 minutes.
“I didn’t shoot the ball the way I wanted to tonight, but I stuck to it defensively,” Thompson said. “That’s why I was able to hit that shot at the end.”
For most of the game, Thompson was building on his sense of uselessness through his first three games. There were no loud moments. The scoreboard does not light up. He averaged 17.3 points but was clearly looking better for himself.
It was fair to wonder if his contract situation was a nuisance. Thompson will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and negotiations have cooled, though they could resume any day.
However, there was clearly a degree of discontent felt not only by Thompson but also by those who saw him at his best.
“He’s been working on finding his rhythm and how to start the season (better),” Green said. “Seeing him hit a big hit like that in the clutch for us to take home was great. And it was even better to see his reaction.”
Thompson’s reaction was a gesture of joy and a series of chest bumps, starting with Green, who also received a hard blow to the chest. Clay was replaced, as he felt good about himself and his tremendous contribution in beating a rival.
“Really happy for Clay,” Kerr said. “He put in a lot of work this summer and the season started out a little slow for him in camp. But he found a groove, and obviously that was a big play.”
Thompson and the Warriors hope the defensive groove and tenacity continues. The front office wants to know if Klay can still play at an All-Star level. This is his goal. And tonight was a strong step towards that.
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