— Ryan Gorcey (@RyanGorcey) April 21, 2019
LOS ANGELES — After the Golden State Warriors’ morning practice at Staples Center on Saturday, forward Jonas Jerebko and guard Klay Thompson headed to a local beach to play some volleyball. Eager to re-set himself after three pedestrian playoff games, Thompson decided he’d take a dip in the ocean, for good measure.
In Sunday’s Game 4, he went off for 32 points in the Warriors’ 113-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“The Pacific Ocean is undefeated,” said Thompson’s Splash Brother, Stephen Curry. “He got his feet wet yesterday, walked in the hotel with a wet t-shirt, with his shades on, and a typical Klay type of vibe. I had a smile on my face, because I knew what meant.”
In a game in his home town, in the arena he grew up shooting in, on a day where most NBA players would have difficulty shaking off a 12:30 p.m. call time — Golden State’s first afternoon tip this season — Thompson showed why, even without center DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors are prohibitive favorites to win the NBA Finals. Thompson’s 12-of-20 shooting day helped paper over slow days from Curry and Draymond Green, early turnovers and occasionally suspect defense to give Golden State a 3-1 series lead over the Clippers.
“We have our eyes on the other teams playing,” Thompson said. “We see Houston being up 3-0, a chance to close it out. We don’t want to extend this series any longer because we know how grueling the playoffs can be. We already let one slip away, so tonight, we came in with the mindset to put our foot on the throttle.”
Thompson came into Sunday’s game having had a fairly pedestrian series, by his standards, shooting 16-of-36 from the field and averaging just 13.7 points, two assists and two rebounds over the first three games against Los Angeles. While Curry — who managed just 12 points — negotiated early foul trouble for the third straight game, missing his first four shots and turning the ball over twice in the first 18 minutes, Thompson hit seven of his first 10, scoring 17 points in the first quarter.
“When Klay gets going like that, it fuels the whole bench,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “You can see everybody jumping around. Everybody gets happy. We all love when Klay gets hot. It fuels our momentum. It didn’t surprise me at all.”
When the Clippers went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter, Thompson helped stop it, dishing to Kevin Durant for a rise-up jumper over Wilson Chandler. Thompson then nailed his fourth 3-pointer (on four attempts) go give the Warriors a 42-37 lead. He was in such a groove that an awkward swing pass around the perimeter from Durant two possessions later didn’t phase him. Off a very-not-clean catch in the right corner, he buried his fifth 3-pointer in a row to give Golden State a 49-40 lead.
“I’ve got to play within the offense that Steve has laid out, which has been great for us, since he’s been here,” Thompson said. “When I play within that flow, that’s when I have huge nights.”
Of Thompson’s 68 career 30-point games during the regular season and playoffs, four have come in Los Angeles — more than any other city, save Oakland (34) and Oklahoma City (4)— but none had come in the playoffs. He had 27 by halftime, as the Warriors headed into the locker room with a 62-54 lead.
“Any time we’re playing at Staples, I really enjoy it, especially I was so lucky as a kid to come here and watch playoff games,” Thompson said. “Now to be a part of it, it’s a real joy for me.”
Golden State, stumbled again in the third quarter, as Los Angeles went on a 13-8 run, powered by rookie Shai Gilgeous Alexander. Scoring 21 points in the first 27 minutes of game time, Gilgeous-Alexander began going at defenders head-on, rather than just finding his spots as he did in the first half.
After Gilgeous-Aleander gave the Clippers a 75-73 lead with a running reverse, Durant responded by shaking Landry Shamet for a long two, but Shamet responded with a triple off the catch on the other end to give Los Angeles an 80-77 lead. Golden State, though, cinched down, and held bench aces Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell to just eight points after halftime.
With 1:57 to go in the third, Alfonzo McKinnie — the last man on the roster coming out of training camp — snared an offensive rebound off a Curry miss, and found Curry again.
Having gone 1-for-7 in the first half, and missing his first seven 3-pointers, Curry crossed over Shamet at the top of the arc, drifted left and hit his first triple of the night, giving Golden State the 85-82 lead with 1:52 to go in the third. That make highlighted a 10–2 run to close the quarter.
Thompson — held scoreless in the third — didn’t have Curry and Durant on the floor to start the fourth, but buried a three off a screen from Andrew Bogut with two Clippers in his face with 10:31 to go to give Golden State a 90-86 lead.
He missed a step-back try with 9:41 to go — his first miss from beyond the arc on the night — but McKnnie was right there for the put-back. Thompson then led Andre Iguodala perfectly on a bounce pass in the lane to up the lead to six with just under nine minutes to go. Thompson got back into his groove less than a minute later, hitting a three from the right corner to up the lead to eight.
With 1:53 left, Durant buried his third 3-pointer on six tries, a shot that put Golden State up 11, and all but iced the game. Durant, who finished with 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting, got a big hug from Thompson, who may or may not repeat his dip when the series turns back north for Wednesday’s Game 5.
“I don’t know if I’m going to jump up north because it’s freezing,” Thompson said. “Something I’ll definitely contemplate if I don’t shoot the ball well … but hopefully, that doesn’t happen.”