Throughout the 2019 NBA Finals, Klay Thompson embodied the spirit of a warrior but never more so than when his team’s back was against the wall, riddled with injuries and facing elimination.
Klay Thompson has stepped up in the clutch when the Golden State Warriors were facing elimination in game six before, but this may have been his most transcendent performance against the longest odds, resulting in the most devastating outcome.
Klay Thompson was heating up even before the tip of game six, sharing an emotional instagram post that dedicated game six to Kevin Durant, imploring DubNation to get fired up for the cause.
While Klay Thompson’s scoring may stand out in the game six box score, his defense inexplicably continues to be underrated and his lockdown defense on Kawhi Leonard that was first noted in game five continued into game six.
I wrote about Klay Thompson's defense on Kawhi Leonard at the end of Game 5 and how important he is to the Warriors as a whole: https://t.co/wY4K9TgI5h— Jeff Siegel (@jgsiegel) June 13, 2019
Klay was so locked in on defending Kawhi, he continued to try and block Kawhi’s shot after the whistle. Leonard finished with 22 points, 1-5 from three-point range, -2 in plus/minus in game six.
Klay and Steph were not about to let Kawhi take shots after the whistle. pic.twitter.com/RoDzgJcaHK— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 14, 2019
While some wondered if game six Klay would show up as he has in previous, critical elimination games, Klay began draining buckets with urgency and efficiency, finishing with ten points, including two three-pointers, after the first quarter.
Klay continued to heat up and nail jumpers in the second quarter, finishing with eighteen points by halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, the Warriors were only down by three points and one could feel momentum shifting, largely due to Klay Thompson’s increasingly hot shooting. Klay scored the Warriors first points of the third quarter, tied the game at 64 with a two-point shot and tied the game at 76 with a three-pointer.
After a Stephen Curry steal, Klay was feeling it and about to score on a breakaway and firmly shift momentum in the Warriors favor when the unthinkable happened.
After tearing his ACL, Klay Thompson came back onto the court to hit two free throws pic.twitter.com/dyUEcpFm4R— ESPN (@espn) June 14, 2019
We were watching the game at Kezar Pub in San Francisco, and the noise and optimism had been steadily growing with each minute of the third quarter until Danny Green fouled Klay Thompson with 2:22 left.
Klay’s toughness is well documented, with coach Steve Kerr once saying that Klay could be half dead and would still try and play, so when we saw Klay writhing in pain on the floor and not immediately getting up, the air and life were sucked out of that room because even the most casual observer could tell the injury was serious.
And while there was a slight lift in the mood and some cheers when Klay came back out of the tunnel to shoot his free throws, many were still confused because most normal humans understandably have a hard time comprehending how someone could keep trying to play after sustaining a catastrophic injury, but Klay Thompson is not like most normal humans.
Klay Thompson went to locker room, came back on the floor to shoot two FT’s then ran back to play defense w/a torn ACL. Then told Steve Kerr he needed “two minutes” and would be back for start of fourth quarter. Incredible display of toughness. #Warriors— John Dickinson (@JDJohnDickinson) June 14, 2019
After Klay made both his free throws, the Warriors led 85-80 and a five-point lead was their largest in game six and it would only recede from that point on. Klay finished the day with 30 points, 10-10 on free throws, 8-12 from the field, 4-6 from three-point range, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, leading his team in plus/minus with +5.
Even though the Warriors were able to gain that lead on the back of Klay Thompson’s outstanding play and heroics, when Klay went out of the game, one could sense that this was a momentum and game-changing tragedy.
No single player wins or loses a game of this magnitude, but it’s not an exaggeration to posit that Klay Thompson’s performance was the reason the Warriors had a late lead and could have won the game, and that Klay’s injury and exit was a major reason they lost game six.
Even though this past week was a nightmare for the team and the Finals were lost, Warriors fans have to feel grateful for the selfless, fighting spirit that has driven this Golden Age of Warriors basketball, a spirit that was exemplified by another unbelievable performance by Klay Thompson.
"To have a teammate like that, I mean that's all you can ever ask for. Love that dude to death. I'll go to battle with him any day."— KNBR (@KNBR) June 14, 2019
-DeMarcus Cousins on Klay Thompson pic.twitter.com/ofliQpOtx7
While there are questions about how Klay might recover from this serious injury and where he might end up as a free agent, if his toughness and will to win are any predictor, Klay Thompson will bounce back like a true Warrior and continue to add more amazing chapters to his legend.
Who was your Warrior Wonder in game 6 against the Raptors?
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