SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson came whistling down the hallway toward the Warriors’ locker room, striding ahead of coach Steve Kerr and sounding like he didn’t have a care in the world.
Pay no worry to Thompson making only 4-of-19 shots Sunday night and just 1-of-8 from 3-point range?
Well, what mattered most was the Warriors winning 107-88 to even the NBA Finals at 1-1 before flying to Boston for Games 3 and 4.
Thompson’s only 3-pointer sure mattered, too.
“It was just good for our energy to get him going and see that ball go through the rim,” center Kevon Looney said.
It came at the onset of the Warriors’ third-quarter surge, which they used to parlay a 52-50 halftime lead into an 87-64 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Thompson, off a Draymond Green assist, pulled up on the left wing and drilled a 25-foot jumper for a 59-52 lead, about 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.
“We feed off it. When Klay hits shots, it gets us going,” Green said. “Good to see him knock that shot down and it started a run for us.”
Never mind that Thompson had just missed two shots earlier after halftime, including a reverse layup that never drew iron and dropped him to 1-of-10 from the floor.
“Getting them clean looks against a defense like that is tough,” Looney said, “So when we get some free easy ones, he made it, it got the whole team going, and I think we kind of fed off that energy.”
Once Thompson’s 3-pointer fell, he celebrated as loudly as the Chase Center crowd. The Celtics, in turn, called a timeout to try slowing the train that would not stop.
More 3-pointers came in a flurry from the Warriors — three from Steph Curry, one from Otto Porter Jr. (to offset Jayson Tatum’s on the other end) and then back-to-back bombs from Jordan Poole to close the quarter.
Thompson missed his final trio of 3-point attempts and 2-of-8 shots, but no one was surprised — nor bothered — that he kept shooting.
On to the next shot, on to the next game.
That’s why he looked as cool and composed as usual as he calmly strode done the corridor to the locker room after the win. He made that walk somewhat solitarily, at least compared to the teammates’ in his wake.
For example, Juan Toscano-Anderson hollered over and over that it was “a great day to be a Warrior!” Then came Curry with four cameras documenting every move and word, about now taking the show on the road. Green followed and told the camera on him how it was “very important not to go on the road down 0-2.”
Green, at the postgame podium, read Thompson’s state line and said his long-time teammate “had a tough one, but that happens. We know he’ll make shots as this series continues to go on.”
Overall, Thompson missed 15 shots, his most in a NBA Finals game and his third-most in 141 career playoff games. Although he missed 17 in a 2016 conference-finals win at Oklahoma City, he also made 14 and scored 41 points; he missed 16 shots in a 2018 conference-semifinal win over New Orleans. His coldest shooting night in a NBA Finals game was a 3-of-16 showing (0-for-5 on 3-pointers) in a 2017 Game 1 win over Cleveland.
After a stunning collapse in Thursday’s Game 1, the Warriors and Thompson got to celebrate their first NBA Finals win since Game 5 of 2019, when Thompson made 7-of-13 3-point attempts in that victory at Toronto.
Up by 25 points with 6 1/2 minutes to go Sunday night, Thompson was the only Warriors’ starter still on the court. Perhaps he was left trying to find his groove on this grandest of stage, where he yearned to return after two years of grueling rehabilitation from knee and Achilles injuries.
Now the Warriors — and Thompson — are one win closer to their fourth NBA championship since 2015.
No win is ho-hum at this level. For Thompson, it elicited a low-key whistle as he strode ahead of coach Steve Kerr into the locker room. Thompson hit the notes with his melody, just like he hit a key 3-point shot during this game’s turning point.
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Author: Cam Inman