Klay Thompson needs consistency vs. Celtics

There are countless reasons for the Boston Celtics’ epic fourth quarter comeback/Golden State Warriors collapse in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

It takes more than one player on either side to factor in Boston’s 17-0 run that turned a 12-point deficit into a 120-108 statement. That was the Celtics’ indestructible brilliance. That was the clumsy fumbling of warriors.

That was also the last thing Klay Thompson fought so long and hard for to get back into the finals. It wasn’t all Klay’s fault Thursday night. He, too, was not immune to criticism.

Thompson had a disastrous fourth quarter, posting the team’s worst minus of 27 during that period. He only hit two shots, one after the game was all but decided. On the night he was minus 9 and only walked 6 of 14 out of the field for 15 points.

“I missed some great looks,” Thompson said afterwards. “… I missed a few things [defensive] Rotations…it’s never fun and it hurts on the biggest stage.”

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots against Boston Celtics center Daniel Theis (27) in the first half of game one of the basketball NBA Finals in San Francisco, Thursday, June 2, 2022 .  (AP Photo/John Hefti)

Like his teammates, Warriors guard Klay Thompson had an unforgettable fourth quarter in a collapse against the Celtics in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Thompson finished with 15 points. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

Just seeing Thompson return to the biggest stage was a feel-good moment for those finals and a mark of accomplishment for the player. Three years ago, in a Game 6 finals loss to Toronto, Thompson ruptured his ACL and collapsed on the court. It signaled the possible end of the Warriors dynasty, which came with the series loss to the Raptors and Kevin Durant’s departure for Brooklyn. Thompson would miss the entire 2019-20 season only to return and then tear his Achilles tendon, costing him the 2020-21 campaign.

In December of that season, he was sent to the G League – Santa Cruz – mainly for training. He only returned to the NBA in January, an emotional return for a beloved “splash brother.”

He would play 32 regular season games and slowly start to rust. He posted a career-low 3-point shooting percentage (38.5%) and a near-career-low field goal shooting percentage (42.9%), but still managed 20.4 points per game.

So yeah, just being here was something. There’s a reason Thompson showed so much emotion when the Warriors beat Dallas in the Western Conference Finals.

“Just a surreal feeling,” Thompson said of reaching his fourth NBA Finals. “It’s hard to put into words. This time last year I just started jogging and pacing the square again. Now I feel like myself, feel explosive, feel confident in my movements. I’m just grateful.”

Now is no time for sentimentality. There’s a Larry O’Brien Trophy up for grabs and a battle-hardened Boston team trying to make their own history.

Those playoffs were a rollercoaster ride for Thompson. Thirty-two points a game; 12 the next. But every time suspicion arises as to how effective the 32-year-old is still looking at the last three years, he bounces off like the old days. He combined 16 three-pointers and poured in 62 points in Golden State’s closeout victories over Memphis and Dallas, the veteran shooter there when it mattered most.

“It’s the Game 6s he’s got when everyone says he’s in a shooting crisis,” said teammate Draymond Green. “In such situations, he behaved in such a way that in the end nothing stood in the way of him winning the game. It’s such a rare thing.”

Nobody ever doubted Thompson’s competitiveness. Just being here is proof of that. But he’ll need all of it to bounce back in this series.

Armed with five previous Finals experiences, including three titles, he won’t outwardly express too much concern about what happened on Thursday.

“Well, you know, it’s only after four, not one,” Thompson said. “And we’ve all been through situations like that.”

That doesn’t mean a precious victory didn’t fly away.

How great Thompson is as a player is debatable. Oh, he’s great, but is he a great man of all time or a guy who has benefited from being the ideal match-up for a great man of all time (Stephen Curry)?

Thompson didn’t make the NBA’s 75th anniversary team, meaning he wasn’t considered one of the top 75 players of all time. For Thompson, that was a snub. And a level of motivation. The best way to make the top 100 in a quarter of a century is to keep winning. Golden State has a nice balance of veteran stars and young talent who could restart the dynasty.

That requires consistent playing from Thompson, who returns with fresh perspectives and a new appreciation for this greatest stage of all, and perhaps a desire to maximize it now that he’s here.

“It’s going to be very tough,” Thompson said. “The best part is that we have another opportunity on Sunday.”

Nobody knows this better than Klay Thompson.

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