As the time wound down, Klay Thompson looked upon the scoreboard in awe of what had just transpired.
In spite of what the odds might have said before the start of the game or even by the halfway mark, there was a sense that Thompson already knew what was bound to happen — what was destined to transpire through forces beyond this mortal realm.
Perhaps it’s because this was nothing new for him. He had been in this position before, both as a spectator as well as a practitioner of feats considered unfathomable and improbable.
So when the clock hit zero and the digital numbers flashing off the scoreboard detailed an absolute blowout, all Thompson could do was chuckle as he acknowledged his defeat to the hands of a young girl from China — whose claim to fame will forever be a viral video of her stomping an NBA All-Star at a game of pop-a-shot.
This girl absolutely wrecked @KlayThompson in Pop-A-Shot pic.twitter.com/NxZG1A3zR9— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 27, 2018
This classic China Klay moment echoed a few similar beats to his heroic Game 6 performance that turned the tides against a Houston Rockets team who had the Warriors against the ropes and facing elimination.
Reminiscent of his legendary Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder several seasons ago, he led the charge against the Rockets by hitting nine 3’s, scoring a game-high 35 points, and grabbing four steals to seat James Harden and Chris Paul next to Russell Westbrook in the ever-growing pantheon of superstars, who have had their bids for a championship ring torched to ashes by Thompson’s hand.
As the most discreet of the four superstars who headlined the Warriors last season, it can be easy for some — especially those who loosely follow the team — to forget the impact and potential devastation he can evoke whenever he’s on the floor.
But that’s the charm of what Thompson brings to the team. The noise he makes comes solely from the plays he makes on the court.
The quintessential Klay Thompson season is one where he torches nets, locks down opposing stars, helps deliver championship rings, and returns back home to play with his dog Rocco at the end of the day.
And that’s exactly what his 2017-2018 season was.
In hot pursuit of the 50/40/90
Before the season began, Thompson made it known that he wanted to nab himself a 50/40/90 season (50 FG%, 40 3P%, 90 FT%).
He hovered around each of those marks — save for the free throw one — for the entire season and ended up with career-high marks of 48 FG%, 44 3P%, and 60 TS%.
One could argue that if it weren’t for Stephen Curry’s injuries, Thompson might have had an even more amazing shooting season with the extra space provided by Curry’s gravity.
But as far as shooting goes, this was still one hell of an impressive season for Thompson despite him not reaching the goal he set for himself in the preseason.
He provided the firepower needed when Curry sat out during the regular season and for the first round of the playoffs against San Antonio.
Plus he still ended up accomplishing another impressive career achievement of 10,000 points for his career midway through the season.
Despite it being uncharacteristic, if Thompson surprisingly lacked any motivation for next year’s regular season, chasing the coveted 50/40/90 could remain as a potential target for him to strive for once again.
On the defensive side of the ball, Thompson once again was typically tasked with guarding the other team’s best backcourt player.
Every season there is a debate from outsiders that surrounds Thompson’s reputation as one of the NBA’s premier defenders, which typically points to his low defensive box plus/minus rating.
But he’s not a gambler on defense, which results in lower traditional box score stats and a diminished overall rating. Instead he plays lockdown defense, which doesn’t show up in the numbers.
With advances to player tracking, however, there is now an abundance of data to better evaluate defensive play.
Per NBA stats, in the pivotal series against the Rockets, he forced Harden and Paul to shoot 17-of-41 from the floor and held them to a combined 32 points less per 100 possessions than what they averaged during the regular season (20 points less when accounting for team scoring instead of them individually).
And across the final two rounds of the playoffs, LeBron James and Kevin Love were the only two players who helped their team score more points than their season average with Thompson as the primary defender.
And the ironman award goes to...
As detailed by Kristian Winfield, Thompson’s uncanny Wolverine-like ability to bounce back from some pretty tough injuries in the last two rounds of the playoffs was not only remarkable, but also allowed the Warriors to operate at the same high-octane pace they favor unimpeded.
Klay Thompson leaves game after JR Smith accidentally slips into his legs pic.twitter.com/pphfrbKWaE— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 1, 2018
Thompson is now the only Warrior player to have played in every playoff game the team has gone through since he was drafted by Golden State.
Same old Klay
That’s exactly what Thompson does year-in and year-out though. He strives for reliability and consistency with a modest team-first attitude to boot. In that way, this season wasn’t very different for him than those that preceded it.
Save for the absence of one of those regular season games where he goes completely bonkers — see his 60 point explosion from the previous year — this championship run was very much business as usual.
But that’s nothing to gripe about when things end with the team hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy. And in Thompson’s case, par for the course still results in a great overall season.
And some more China Klay videos.
CHINA KLAY IS ON ANOTHER LEVEL THIS SUMMER pic.twitter.com/fgJ6ZFjXgv— Whitney Medworth (@its_whitney) June 28, 2018
How would you grade Klay Thompson’s 2017-18 season?
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10,000 China Klay fist pumps