SAN FRANCISCO — Klay Thompson has played some of his best games against the Sacramento Kings. A visit from his favorite foe was welcome for a three-point teacher just getting into his rhythm.
Thompson found his hot hand early in a three-point frenzy that set the tone for the Golden State Warriors’ 126-114 win against the Kings — playing without star De’Aaron Fox — on Thursday. The Warriors have won eight straight, a season-long streak, moving to 40-13.
Thompson hit his season-high three pointers made by the eighth minute of the second quarter, at that point 6-for-6 from three. In 10 first-half minutes, Thompson had 20 points going 7-8 from the field and 6-7 from three and finished the half with 20 points in 14 minutes on 7-9 shooting, 6-8 from three.
Each three-pointer had character.
Some Thompson pulled up for three — a clear sign he’s feeling his shot. His sixth three-pointer? Shot off balance in the left corner on a flicked pass from Steph Curry in transition. Two of them off a contested cross-court hurl from Curry with the quickest release. Easy and difficult, just the kind of shots the backcourt duo normalized.
“You get it to him however you can, as quick as you can,” Curry said.
What constitutes a bad shot for Thompson?
“Getting blocked. That’s about it,” Curry said.
Thompson rewarded the electric crowd with some celebrations. Some were new—a couple snarls at the sideline. Some were premature — after his final three-pointer, Thompson rushed to the baseline to celebrate with the crowd with the game still going. Lucky for him, Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry called a timeout.
He can get away with that one premature celebration, he’s waited long enough to experience the adrenaline again.
“That felt so dang good. And with everything I’ve been through, I just really appreciate nights like this,” Thompson said. “The shooting part is so much fun and when you see hard work paying off it just hits different now than a few years ago. be happy. It could be so fragile doing what we do, and it could be taken away from you in an instant.”
Limited to 24 minutes to manage his surgically repaired ACL and achilles, Thompson finished with 23 points. But another number on his stat sheet stood out.
“I thought he was fantastic tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It wasn’t just the shooting, he had seven assists.”
With his hot hand, Thompson distributed the dough. It’s been a new look for Thompson, who didn’t see floors this spaced when he last played in 2019 — when sustained his ACL injury in the NBA Finals. Thompson is adjusting to look for the pass more than in years past.
“They know he’s back, especially when he makes a couple shots early, he’s going to get a lot of attention,” Curry said, adding he’s going by the team’s “five-point basketball” that commands quick decisions, driving and kicking. “I know that’s one of the bigger adjustments, trying to be patient to find his flow and not force things early and take what the defense gives him.”
His best pass of the night: a pinpoint pass in transition to Jonathan Kuminga, who flipped for a dunk contest-worthy reverse slam.
Thompson followed that up with his seventh three pointer of the game in transition. Kuminga finished with 18 points, still lamenting the transition three he took, and missed, during Thompson’s hot streak. The 19-year-old is still learning how to feed the hot hand, while also maintaining his confidence to shoot.
“Coach always says ‘be confident,” Kuminga said. “I know I missed it, but if I made it, they weren’t going to say a lot. But I missed that one. Klay was 3-for-3, so the blame was on me. I have to make sure every time I see him coming off the screen and set that pin-down and get him open. Just trying to do my best, but he wasn’t mad about it.”
Curry’s night, with a little nose bleed
Late in the fourth quarter, Kings’ Buddy Hield hit Curry in the nose, making it bleed and sending him to the bench for the rest of the fourth quarter in what had become a blowout. Curry said he was fine.
“You should see Buddy’s arm, took the worst of it,” Curry joked.
Curry finished with 20 points shooting 4-of-7 from three in 32 minutes with seven assists of his own.
Kevon Looney chipped in 10 points with seven rebounds, playing 21 minutes and getting a little much-needed rest in the fourth quarter of a blowout.
Despite Looney’s consistency, Draymond Green’s loss is felt defensively. The Kings shot 52% from the field and on Tuesday the San Antonio Spurs penetrated the perimeter defense with ease, shooting 55% from the field.
The Warriors will use some of the next three off days to shore up their Green-less defensive effort.
“It’s a different game right now for us without Draymond,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “Our defense clearly isn’t as good. The last two nights our opponents have shot over 50%. We have long stretches where our defense fails us, but we have floor spacing…You got to be able to get stops consistently to be really good.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism