Legend of 'Game 6 Klay' Grows as Warriors Advance to Western Conference Finals

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured Columnist IVMay 14, 2022

San Francisco, CA - MAY 13: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors looks on during Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals on May 13, 2021 at Chase Center in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Heading into Friday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Klay Thompson was averaging 16.2 points on 16.8 shots per game in this conference semifinal. He was shooting 29.3 percent from three.

"When do we talk about Klay?" became a common sight on social media. Did the torn ACL and ruptured Achilles that cost him nearly 1,000 days of NBA action sap Klay of the ability to go on superhuman scoring bursts?

Would we ever see anything like his 37-point quarter again? What about his 60-point, 11-dribble performance?

Turns out, all he needed was another Game 6.

And that's what he got on Friday.

After a 39-point loss on Wednesday (in which the Golden State Warriors trailed by as many as 55 points), Klay led his team to a 110-96 win and their first trip to the conference finals since 2019.

For the first time in about as long, Thompson was able to take over in a way only he can on the game's biggest stage. It started in the first quarter.


Game 6 Klay? 👀<br><br>Three 3-pointers already in the first quarter. <a href="https://t.co/q0i1McHBwg">pic.twitter.com/q0i1McHBwg</a>

After drilling his third three of the quarter, Thompson couldn't help but let a smile slip. It was like an involuntary product of relief. I still got this. I'm still that guy.

He finished the frame with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. And though Golden State was only up four, a sense of calm seemed to settle over Warriors fandom. Game 6 Klay arrived, and everything would be OK.

From that point to the end of the game, Thompson added 19 more points and five more threes. He finished with a team-high 30 points. When he hit what felt like the dagger three with about three minutes left in the fourth, an outburst of emotion led him to fans on the other end of the floor, where he emphatically threw up six fingers.

Warriors on NBCS @NBCSWarriors

Game 6 Klay was beyond fired up 🔥 <a href="https://t.co/MccNfnTyYK">pic.twitter.com/MccNfnTyYK</a>

We aren't the only ones who know about Game 6 Klay. The man himself seems to be keenly aware.

And how could he not be?

All told, Thompson is now averaging 20.7 points and 4.2 threes, while shooting 49.5 percent from three in Game 6s. But that doesn't even begin to tell the story.

In the 2016 Western Conference Finals, he spearheaded a comeback win over Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (that ultimately blew that team up) with 41 points and what was then a playoff record 11 threes.

Two years later, in a blowout win over James Harden and the Houston Rockets, he dropped 35 points and nine threes. He stung the Rockets again in 2019, with 27 points and seven triples. And finally, in the 2019 Finals, he had 30 points on just 12 shots before suffering the ACL tear that put him on the hellish road he'd spend nearly three years trying to get off.

All of those performances came in Game 6s, including the one that knocked him out. So, it's fitting that this version of Klay returned in a Game 6.

If he's here to stay, the Warriors are undoubtedly contenders.

That may seem like a duh sort of statement. Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have all won three titles, but the East features three teams (the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics) that look title worthy. The Phoenix Suns were playing like a juggernaut in the regular season.

But Golden State is now 14-3 (regular and postseason) when Klay has a 15-plus game score ("a rough measure of a player's productivity for a single game").

Add that to Curry and Green playing like they were in the Lightyears era (Curry is averaging 26.9 points in the playoffs, and Green just had 15 boards, 14 points and eight assists in Game 6), and it's easy to start believing in the revival of this dynasty.

This version also boasts Jordan Poole, who averaged 21.0 points on 12.4 shots in the first round. It has Andrew Wiggins, who's been a stalwart perimeter defender all year and showed plenty of mettle in the closeout win over Memphis. After going 1-of-8 in the first half, Wiggins went for 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting after the break.

There's also a more experienced Kevon Looney, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Game 4 against Denver and grabbed a whopping 22 boards (11 offensive).

“It was Draymond’s call," coach Mike Brown (filling in for Steve Kerr) said of starting Looney. "Draymond and Steph's."

It seems like a little thing, but the trust this group has in each other (and that includes coaches) is built on years of experience and some monster wins.

That's the foundation. And it's a solid one. Highlights, momentum shifts and takeovers like those provided by Game 6 Klay are what make this team special.