Game 6 Clay is back! After more than two and a half years of suffering, Klay Thompson got the Warriors into the West Finals by scoring the top scorer in Game 6 against Memphis. In the series against the Grizzlies, however, it also became clear that the Warriors are not ready for the title in this form.
1. The Legend of Game 6 Klay
Game 6 and Klay Thompson – this is a magical connection. One that perhaps only Michael Jackson with the music, Mike Tyson with the boxing ring or Michael Jordan with the orange leather felt. At least the Warriors star put his Game 6 self in an Instagram post jokingly on par with these legends, alluding to a famous line from the song “Ni**as in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West.
So what’s there between the Splash Brother and a Game 6? “I don’t know, I have no idea,” admitted Thompson after the 110-96 win in Game 6 of the Conference Semifinals, in which he became the top scorer with 30 points. “I just love those moments, I love the pressure. We’re not singers or actors, we can’t do this forever. So while we’re still capable of it, we should cherish every single night because sometimes it goes by so quickly.”
Hardly anyone knows this better than Thompson. It’s been 1,066 days since his last Game 6 feat, when he scored 30 points in 32 minutes against Toronto in the 2019 Finals before tearing his cruciate ligament. As is well known, an Achilles tendon rupture followed a year later and a compulsory break of more than two and a half years.
Now he reported back with 8 threes on the big “Game 6 stage”, already in the early minutes he caught fire by mercilessly punishing the drop coverage of Grizzlies center Steven Adams. Thompson said he was nervous all day. You couldn’t tell.
Since his famous Game 6 vs. Thunder in 2016, the Splash Brother has now averaged 28.1 points in seven appearances in a Game 6. “You’ve all been there for a while. You know how Klay is in a 6 game,” said Warriors coach Mike Brown (Steve Kerr was missing again) succinctly.
However, the question now is: Can Thompson, now 32 years old and after two serious injuries, consistently perform at this level? The postseason so far speaks against it, in the series against Memphis (16.2 points with a miserable 38.1 percent FG in the first five duels) Thompson was mostly a negative factor. Also defensively, due to the understandably lost athleticism, he is no longer the power of earlier days, but sometimes pant behind.
In the West Finals – at least Thompson and Co. can rest a bit until the start of the night of May 19th – the dubs will probably need the Game 6 Klay more often. It would be good for him after the long period of suffering if he could tease it out of himself more often.
2. In this form, the Warriors are not ready for the title
Despite all the euphoria about the eruption of the Klay volcano, people in San Francisco are certainly not completely satisfied with this performance, indeed with the entire series. The turnover test ran like an ugly red thread through the entire conference semifinals. In the six duels with Memphis, Golden State lost an average of 18.2 turnovers – in the regular season even the Rockets, who were far behind in 30th place in the league, were even better (16.5).
Incidentally, the penultimate place in this category in the regular season was … the Warriors (14.9). So the problem has been known for a long time, it only got worse against Memphis. Throughout the series, Golden State lost the turnover duel 109-72. In Game 6, the turnover record was 19-7, which turned Memphis into 18 straight points.
Already after game 5 Draymond Green was pretty served by this development. “You have to avoid pressure situations and I have the feeling that we tend to push that. We’ve been too fast the whole series. We have to play slower.” Improvement did not really occur in game 6.
The ball losses were sometimes simply hair-pulling. The statisticians counted five imprecise ground passes like this one, here Damion Lee plays a fatal bad pass without being threatened, here Green simply runs into the defender or in these two examples Curry acts sloppy. So it wasn’t just the pressure from the Grizzlies defense, which nonetheless did a very good job overall until the middle of the fourth quarter.
After all: In the fourth quarter, when the Warriors bagged the win, the home side made only two turnovers – both when the game was already decided, for example because Golden State dribbled down the clock. So it’s possible. The Warriors have to start at this quarter, they can’t allow themselves any more turnover orgies in the West Finals. Otherwise it is never enough for the title.