SAN FRANCISCO – Klay Thompson produced four pivotal moments over the final 124 seconds Wednesday night as a collective reminder of his status as a five-time NBA All-Star.
Each play was crucial for the Warriors, and the timing of the fourth was utterly exquisite.
With the Warriors trailing Sacramento by one inside the final 10 seconds and the Kings throwing their defense toward Stephen Curry, Thompson took a pass from Draymond Green, dribbled to the left corner of the foul line, pulled up, launched and swished.
The ball dropped through the net with 0.2 seconds remaining, lifting the Warriors to a gloriously hideous 102-101 victory before a nervous but eventually euphoric sellout crowd (18,064) at Chase Center.
“Big, big, big shot for us – and for him,” Curry said.
“Anytime you hit a great game-winner, you’re going to feel 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 just wonderful.”
Thompson’s shot punctuated a series of plays he made late in a game without rhythm or rhyme or anything remotely resembling aesthetic appeal.
There was the assist on a pocket pass that led a cutting Green into a layup that pulled Golden State within one (95-94) with 2:04 remaining. Next, 36 seconds later, was role reversal, with Draymond passing to a cutting 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 toward panic, Harrison Barnes’ shot attempt got no further than Thompson’s right hand. The strip-block led to a shot-clock violation.
Ball to the Warriors, trailing 99-98, 38.4 seconds remaining.
“It was a huge play,” Green said. “For him to not even let Harrison get that shot off, that’s a big play because you get the shot-clock violation, and you get to go down and let us get our offense set.
“Such a big play for us down the stretch. Usually, the basketball gods reward you when you make plays like that. When you’re making hustle plays, when you’re engaged, the basketball gods usually reward you.”
The ultimate reward in this instance came 38.2 seconds later, when Thompson released the shot that shook the building.
This was the third game-winning shot inside 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 made a million big shots for us over the years,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But hitting one with .2 seconds left when you’re down, that’s a thrill for anybody, no matter how many times you’ve done it before.”
For Thompson, the role he played over the final two-plus minutes rinsed away some of the frustration built up over the first three quarters. He was 3-of-11 from the field before making 3-of-4 in the fourth quarter. He finished with 14 points, three blocks, two rebounds, two assists and was a team-best plus-10 over his 29 minutes.
“I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I wanted tonight, but I stuck with it defensively,” Thompson said. “And that’s why I was able to hit that shot at the end.”
For much of the game, Thompson was extending his futility felt through his first three games. There were no sizzle moments. No lighting up the scoreboard. He averaged 17.3 points but clearly was in search of his better self.
Clearly, though, there was a measure of exasperation was felt not only by Thompson but by those who have seen him at his best.
“He’s been working to find his rhythm and how to (better) start the season,” Green said. “To see him hit a big shot like that in the clutch for us to take home was big. It was even better to see his reaction.”
Thompson’s reaction was gesture of joy and a series of chest bumps, beginning with Green, who also received a solid tap on the chest. Klay was redeemed, feeling great about himself and his massive contribution to a victory against a rival.
“Really happy for Klay,” Kerr said. “He’s put in a ton of work this summer and the season started out a little slow for him in camp. But he’s finding a groove, and that was obviously a big play.”
Thompson and the Warriors hope the groove and the defensive tenacity lasts. The front office wants to see if Klay can still play at All-Star level. That’s his goal. This night was a solid step toward it.