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Posted January 3, 2023 10:20 AM
SAN FRANCISCO -- Before the Golden State Warriors tipped off against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, Klay Thompson had a conversation with Dominique Wilkins. They discussed how Wilkins' return from an Achilles tendon tear decades ago has made him an inspiration to Thompson, as the Warriors guard has been on a similar journey.
Thompson has spent the early portion of the season searching for the 2019 version of himself, before he tore an ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, only to suffer an Achilles injury right before the start of the 2020-21 season.
His 54 points on 21-of-39 shooting -- including 10-of-21 from 3 -- in the Warriors' 143-141 double-overtime win was as close as he has been, he said.
"It's a huge accomplishment for me," Thompson said. "There were some hard days for me when I didn't know that this would be possible in real time. I am just going to embrace the heck out of it."
His 54 points Monday night were the most since his career-best scoring outing of 60 accomplished in three quarters on Dec. 5, 2016, against the Indiana Pacers. It was Thompson's fourth career 50-point game and seventh with at least 10 3s.
"He just made shot after shot and play after play. He was incredible,'' Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
As Thompson has navigated streaks of poor shooting performances, the bottom line the Warriors have emphasized to him is not to force his game and to play within the flow of the offense.
Teammate Draymond Green told him, "You don't have to be the same Klay that you once were before. When you understand that and you buy into that, then you become the Klay you were before."
"When you're as competitive as he is, when you're as good as he is, it's tough sometimes," Green said. "For two years, everybody is doubting you. That same fire toward that doubt is what made you Klay Thompson ... you don't just lose that. That is embedded in you. It's good to see him settle down. He's not chasing it anymore, and it's falling right in his lap. When you are that good, that's usually what happens."
Thompson said he feels more relaxed than he was at the start of the season. In late October, his eagerness to be back on the court and to prove naysayers wrong was a disservice to him, he said.
Now, he is playing with a different message in his head: "I have to remind myself daily that [playing for the Warriors] is literally the dream. What matters most is having fun and playing hard. All the numbers, all the big nights will come as long as I do those two things."
Thompson has been giving himself those pep talks for a while now. And with the Warriors' roster depleted -- including missing Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins indefinitely -- it's even more important for Thompson to listen to himself.
The Warriors were with just nine active players against the Hawks. The second unit was composed of a second-year player, a rookie and a pair of two-way players.
Fatigue was evident. Golden State blew a 21-point lead and missed some big chances in both overtime periods.
At any other point this season, the Warriors might well have dropped this game. They lost their only other overtime game, against the Charlotte Hornets in their second road contest of the season. Thompson missed a potential walk-off shot at the Orlando Magic a few days afterward. And the Warriors dropped a heartbreaker at the Utah Jazz in early December. Green went as far as to call his team fragile.
"Since I said that, we've built an M.O., which is being gritty," Green said. "No matter what the situation is, we are a team that is going to keep fighting. I don't think this team had built an identity all year, and we are starting to build one. It's coming at a great time."
Against the Hawks, Golden State guard Donte DiVincenzo corralled a crucial offensive rebound then knocked down a tying 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime, after Thompson and Jordan Poole had each missed from long range during the same sequence.
Even with all of the Warriors' big shots down the stretch -- including a 3-pointer by Green -- Golden State had an unlikely hero, as Kevon Looney tipped in the winner on his own offensive rebound as the final buzzer sounded in the second overtime after missing moments before.
"The first one, I rushed it really quickly, and I just realized nobody was panicking or celebrating," Looney said about missing his first attempt. "I knew I had time to go back up."
Looney had a career-high 20 rebounds (10 offensive) to go with 14 points and five assists.
"Everybody dreams about getting a game winner, so whenever you have a chance ... it's a great moment," Looney said. "Especially in a double-overtime game where everybody was exhausted."
Thanks to Looney, the undermanned defending NBA champions ran their season-best winning streak to five games. They also have posted six straight victories at home.
The Warriors had four players log at least 44 minutes on Monday. Thompson played a game-high and season-high 46 minutes.
"My tank is on E," Thompson said afterward during his on-court interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "Thank god for Kevon Looney, man."
Earlier this season, Thompson was on a tight minutes restriction after not being cleared to participate in live-action portions of training camp and sitting out of the preseason games. He still hasn't been cleared to play in both sides of back-to-back games.
"I would not have been able to do this a few months ago, so this is a huge milestone for me," Thompson said. "It's a big confidence booster, individually. We're almost nearing the halfway point. It feels great to feel like I'm getting better with every game. I know I'll be more consistent as the season goes on ... after 30 games under my belt, I'm feeling wonderful."
Warriors observations: Klay Thompson erupts for 54 in wild double OT win
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors' start to 2023 was much like 2022. This team can't keep things simple and easy.
They once led by as many as 21 points. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo at the end of regulation tied it all up. Two overtimes later, Kevon Looney beat the buzzer this time, giving the Warriors an absolutely wild 143-141 win over the Atlanta Hawks in double overtime.
Klay Thompson had Chase Center going bonkers, scoring 54 points. That's his second-most ever in a single game, and his most since his two brutal leg injuries. He went 21-for-39 from the field and 10-for-21 on 3-pointers, also adding seven rebounds.
Jordan Poole scored 28 points, but was an ugly 11-for-31 from the field and 2-for-12 from deep. He also turned the ball over six times.
On a night where the Warriors (20-18) were more than shorthanded, Anthony Lamb was the first player off their bench. For good reasons, too. Lamb scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added four assists.
Here are three takeaways from the Warriors' fifth straight win.
Klay's Continued Hot Start
How can the Warriors get points on the scoreboard without Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins? Thompson recently has been getting Curry's rotation, meaning he plays the entire first quarter. That appears to be working pretty well, too.
Through the first 12 minutes Monday night, he scored 16 points -- going 6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-6 on 3-point attempts. This isn't anything new. Over Klay's last three games, he has been red-hot early on.
He scored 14 first-quarter points against the Charlotte Hornets and 15 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers before his 16 on the Hawks. That's 45 first-quarter points in Thompson's last three games. It's not like he has been chucking during this stretch either. Instead, it has been efficient shooting.
Klay Thompson puts 54 points on Hawks, but it's Kevon Looney who plays hero as Warriors win fifth straight
Thompson hit 10 3-pointers while Looney had the game-winning tip-in as time expired
Klay Thompson torched the Hawks for 54 points on 10 3-pointers on Monday, but it was Kevon Looney who played hero with the game-winning tip as time expired to give Golden State a wild 143-141 overtime victory. It was the Warriors' fifth straight win, and their league-leading 17th at home.
Now if they could just figure out the road, on which they are a league-worst 3-16, but that's a story for another day. Right now, it's all about Thompson starting to round into his old form. The man has never been shy about jacking up shots, but his discretion has gotten decidedly better as the season has progressed.
Still, Thompson has launched an incredible 108 shots, including 60 3-pointers, over his last four games. He's posting 46-41 shooting splits over that span. The Warriors will gladly take that, particularly with Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins still out.
Thompson finished Monday 21 for 39 from the field. He was 10 for 21 from 3. Most refreshingly, he was just 2 for 2 from the free-throw line. That's not an efficient model, but for pure entertainment value, you can't beat a guy dropping 21 buckets, mostly from jumpers, against just two freebies. No foul hunting to be found here.
This was the second-highest scoring output of Thompson's career, trailing only his 60-point effort that came in just 29 minutes against the Indiana Pacers in 2016.
Monday was Thompson's fourth career 50-point game, and seventh game in which he's made at least 10 3-pointers. He has done the latter twice this season already, previously registering 10 triples against Houston back in November. Thompson is also the sixth player in NBA history to record at least 50 points and 10 3-pointers in the same game.
Don't think I forgot about Looney, who went for 14 points and 21 rebounds, including 11 of the offensive variety, yet was somehow a game-worst minus-20 during his 32 minutes. Single-game plus-minus numbers continue to be worthless measurements. Here's the winning tip:
The Warriors have three games remaining on their season-long eight-game homestand, and they're all very winnable against Detroit, Orlando and Phoenix, which will still be without Devin Booker. Curry and Wiggins should be back soon. Are things actually starting to come together in the Bay?