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MANILA, Philippines – Although having the iconic designation as one of the “Splash Brothers” will arguably be the highlight of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson’s career in terms of nicknames, his persona as “Game 6 Klay” isn’t far behind on the list.
Thompson, 33, has compiled a handful of impressive Game 6 performances in the NBA Playoffs since his Warriors began competing for NBA championships in 2015, many of them coming in the face of extreme pressure.
The one that has the best case as being the most significant was Game 6 against the OKC Thunder in the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
With Golden State down 1-3 in the series and the Kevin Durant-led Thunder leading wire-to-wire and ahead by 7 with half a period to go in the final quarter, the Warriors leaned on Klay’s shooting brilliance to keep them within striking distance of the contest and pave the way for the come-from-behind victory.
“Loon was just a rookie [then],” Thompson, looking at teammate Kevon Looney to his left, reminisced. “He was just a teenager, which is crazy to think about.”
Thompson and Looney are in Manila for the first time for the launch of Thompson’s new signature shoe with Anta, the KT9.
When queried by Rappler on background information of that memorable evening against OKC where he dropped 41 points and a then NBA playoffs record of 11 made three-pointers, Thompson revealed it was a speech by teammate Draymond Green two games prior that allowed him to develop the mindset to eventually make history.
“I think about losing Game 4; we were down 3-1, and Draymond Green made one of the best speeches I have ever heard about how no one thought it was possible to win 73 games and no one thinks it’s possible we could come back from this deficit,” he remembered.
The Warriors broke the NBA record for most wins by a team during the regular season, eclipsing the previous mark of 72 set by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1996.
“He said, ‘let’s go shock the world.’ And that right there gave me a ton of confidence to just, I like to say, empty the clip as a shooter.”
Thompson was also responsible for the go-ahead three-pointer that night which put Golden State ahead in the final minutes of the game. The Warriors would then go on to win Game 7 on their home floor to make a second straight NBA Finals appearance.
“You don’t want to go home that day or night and say, ‘Gosh, I should have taken that shot, I should have been more aggressive.’ I went into every game that series with that mindset,” Thompson added, calling the whole thing an “out-of-body experience.”
“You don’t plan on having nights like that as an athlete. They kind of just happen organically and that is a very great memory for me, obviously, because at that time it was a playoff record for 3s.”
Incidentally, Thompson’s Warriors would be on the opposite end of the spectrum a series later as they blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, including two home losses in the final three contests.
“That year is still kind of painful to look back on just because it was such a beautiful regular season and to lose to Cleveland still hurts,” Thompson revealed.
“But I will forever cherish that game, because it birthed kind of an alter ego for me as far as Game 6, and I was lucky enough to have some great Game 6s after that as well, but I was just in such a great zone that night.”
Other impressive Game 6s in his resume include a game versus Houston in 2018 (35 points, 9-of-14 from three to force a Game 7) and 2019 (27 points, 7-of-13 from three to close out the series), against Toronto in 2019 (30 points, 4-of-6 from three before he got injured), and versus Memphis in 2022 (30 points, 8-of-14 from three to close out the series).
Of course, there’s also a notable clunker: in Game 6 versus the Lakers this year, Thompson had only 8 points on 3-of-19 shooting as Golden State’s title defense came to an end.
“Glad you didn’t say Game 6 of 2023, yikes,” Thompson remarked on that matchup.
Ultimately, the magnificent performances outweigh the disappointing ones.
“I still get chills when I look back and think about it, and there’s nothing better in pro sports than silencing the opposing crowd, and I’ve never heard it so quiet in an arena in OKC,” he said about the Western Conference Finals in 2016.
“You can just feel how deflated they were.” – Rappler.com