Klay Thompson had never been thrown out of a basketball game in his 759 career regular season and playoff games. That ended Tuesday night in Phoenix, when he had as many technical fouls as points in what turned into a blowout loss for the Golden State Warriors, 134-105.
The game was close midway through the 3rd quarter, albeit extremely chippy and chirpy. By the time Thompson and Devin Booker’s game-long jawing came to a chest-bumping boil with 6:31 left, there had already been four technicals in the quarter, two by each team. Draymond added an expletive to his cry of “And One!” after making a layup through contact and getting no whistle, and Coach Steve Kerr got another with his colorful advocacy of Draymond’s cause. Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns got T’d up within thirty seconds of each other, which set the stage for Klay’s first career ejection.
Klay Thompson’s ejection. He had words for Booker and the Suns bench.— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 26, 2022
Booker, who led the Suns with 34 points, had been engaged in a lively back and forth with Thompson. According to Booker, Klay repeatedly reminded him that he had four championship rings to Booker’s zero, though he may have also shared his dislike of Booker’s girlfriend’s Pepsi commercial.
Whatever the cause, when Green’s errant pass (he had five turnovers) was stolen by Mikal Bridges, who Green then fouled, Booker and Thompson bumped chests while arguing, and drew double technicals. Then, as Thompson was walking away, Bridges walked into him. Klay’s angry shove got him an immediate second technical and an early trip to the locker room. Phoenix then proceeded to go on an 11-0 run, and finished the quarter up 104-85.
The Warriors continued the lackadaisical transition defense and rampant fouling that have characterized their young season so far. They’ve given up 124 points per game, second-worst in the NBA, and are tied with Phoenix for second-most fouls with 23.75 per game. In their 16 quarters, they’ve given up 30 points or more 11 times, and it would have been 12 had Monty Williams not taken his starters out during their 29-point 4th.
Kerr told reporters that initially the team’s transition defense was bad, and later in the game late rotations led to fouls. “We lost our way,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not a finished product, by any means. ... We’re nowhere close to where we need to be right now. We’re a very poor defensive team, and that doesn’t win in this league.”
Steph Curry led the Warriors with 21 points, the first time he’s been held to under 30 points this season. Curry did most of his damage in the second quarter, hitting three triples and dishing three assists. The Warriors had nearly erased Phoenix’s seven-point lead before Chris Paul iced a three at the halftime buzzer while being guarded by...Kevon Looney?
Chris Paul at the halftime buzzer pic.twitter.com/02x8nmfA9b— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 26, 2022
Curry has now made a three-pointer in 193 consecutive regular season games. He hit four of his nine three-point attempts and is now shooting 20-45 (44.4%), on pace for 410 triples for the season.
Jordan Poole had 17 points and Andrew Wiggins scored 16, but most of it came in the first half. In the second half, Poole had just three points and Wiggins had four. Poole was also the team’s most egregious fouler, with five, and probably the weakest link in their defense.
Poole's just gotta be better here. I don't know why he stopped chasing Cam Johnson, but yeah. pic.twitter.com/dlgRtUEmKW— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) October 26, 2022
The Warriors’ old nemesis Chris Paul was 4-5 on three-pointers, and finished with 16 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Bridges scored 17 points on just eight shots. Ayton had 16 points and 14 rebounds, five of them offensive, and he would have had more if the Suns hadn’t shot over 50% from the field.
Still, Booker, Paul, and the rest of the starters putting up numbers is expected. What was unexpected was the dominating performance from Austrlian center Jock Landale, who had 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench - and on his 27th birthday! (He was +27 for the game, too)
"I'll be drinking more wine than I'll be blowing out candles."— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) October 26, 2022
Jock Landale needs to be protected at all costs. The center scored 17 points on his birthday!
WATCH full postgame interview: https://t.co/p3JWfLvG1r pic.twitter.com/5hjSsmWES3
Thanks to 13 points from Moses Moody and 12 for James Wiseman, the Warriors’ bench outscored their Suns counterparts, 46-42. But that’s little consolation when Phoenix’s starters outscored the Dubs starting lineup, 92-59. Wiseman played extended minutes with the starters in the first quarter after early foul trouble for Kevon Looney and scored six points, but he was -9 in that stretch, which also featured the Warriors debut of guard Ty Jerome (two assists in 12:28, missed his only shot).
After the game, Draymond Green took responsibility for the team’s poor defending this season, calling them a “decent” offensive team and a “bad” defensive one.
Draymond Green: "The commitment to defense isn't there. It starts with me and I'm going to make sure we get there."— C.J. Holmes ♂️ (@CjHolmes22) October 26, 2022
The Suns and Warriors had an intense rivalry last season, and Paul has always beefed with Curry and the Warriors. But it never devolved into this kind of chippiness last season, where the teams had fewer technicals in four games (Six) than the teams had in the third quarter tonight (Seven, tied for most in a quarter since 1997).
Booker didn’t seem upset afterward, maybe because his team won by a million points, but he was complimentary to Klay, telling reporters, “I love Klay Thompson. I have for a really long time. But it’s not going to excuse from us being competitive and talking to each other. I’ve always admired his game, how he plays on both ends of the ball. And obviously, the rings speak for themselves.”
For his part, Kerr thought Klay Thompson was pressing, in a game where Booker didn’t let him score as his primary defender.
“Klay cares so much about his own impact on the team. He wants it so badly and he’s trying to force it right now,” said Kerr. “He’s trying too hard. But he’s done that many times, even before the injuries. So I’ll remind him: There are 78 games to go.”
The next of those 78 happens Thursday at home against the 1-3 Miami Heat, last year’s top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Warriors hope to get back above .500, and they really hope one of their minority owners doesn’t try to punch Kyle Lowry again.