BOSTON – Klay Thompson might as well have spent Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday launching the ball straight into the swirling winds. His field-goal attempts veered left and right, fell short and carried long.
Afterward, knowing Golden State would need him to be more productive as the Celtics continued with his series, Thompson sought to remind himself that he was good at basketball. So he fired up a laptop and watched a familiar figure of old clips: himself.
“I remember being in college,” he said, “and when you go through a shooting slump, the video guys would pull up a great game when everything was in unison, and your body was working so well that the ball was just flowing off your fingertips. “
All Thompson needed to do, he said, was search for “Game 6 Klay” on YouTube, and various high-profile reminders of his long-range acumen were readily available to him. Most recently, he scored 30 points and made 8 of 14 3-point attempts in Golden State’s Game 6 win over the Memphis Grizzlies last month in their Western Conference semifinal series. He also famously scored 41 points, including a performance that made 11 of his 18 3-pointers, in 2016 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“There were some very high-pressurized situations I was in, and I ended up shooting the ball well,” he said. “When you can do it when your back is against the wall, you can do it at any given moment. It’s just about keeping that mentally strong. “
If nothing else, Thompson is familiar with keeping, as he put it, that mentally strong. His celebrated comeback after missing two full seasons as injuries have culminated in another trip to the finals, his sixth with Golden State. But he was clearly disappointed with his effort in Game 2 against Boston, as he shot 4 of 19 from the field and finished with 11 points. On the bright side, he said, the Warriors drubbed the Celtics to tie the series ahead of Game 3 on Wednesday night in Boston.
“It feels good going 4 for 19 and winning by 20,” said Thompson, referring to Golden State’s 107-88 win. “I’d rather do that than go 13 for 19 and lose by 10. Been there, and that’s never fun.”
On Tuesday, Thompson arrived for his news conference wearing a sneaker while he worked to fit in with another insole. He was, in his own way, a work in progress, and that has been the case since January, when he was finally back in uniform after a 941-day absence. In 32 regular-season games, he shot a career-low 38.5 percent from 3-point range, but he offered flashes of his familiar greatness, and his presence on the perimeter helped create more space for teammates like Stephen Curry.
It’s been more of the same for Thompson in the playoffs: some good, some great, some bad. His inconsistency should not be surprising given how long he was gone. His left knee and his right Achilles’ tendon are surgically repaired, so there were always going to be ups and downs as he sought to regain his rhythm and his conditioning. His teammates do not seem concerned.
“If you saw him now, you think he is averaging 50 in this series,” Curry said. “He’s got a very confident look about him. That ‘s the best thing about him. It ‘s all about the work you put in. It ‘s about the mind-set. “
On Sunday, Thompson had a bit of a different look. He missed 9 of his first 10 field-goal attempts before he made a 3-pointer early in the third quarter that put Golden State ahead, 59-52. He pumped his fists, but was soon muttering to himself and shaking his head.
“When I watched the movie, I probably seemed a little rushed,” he said. “I was not underneath my shot.”
Even as the score grew more lopsided, Golden State coach Steve Kerr left Boston’s reserves against Thompson in the game. But rather than unearth some confidence, Thompson missed his final four shots.
“I think he’s just pressing a little bit,” Kerr said. “He just wants to do so badly that he’s taking some bad ones. I’m not particularly concerned about it because this is not the first time it happened. Klay has a way of responding to mini-slumps or whatever you want to call them. “
Thompson thought back to this year’s Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Over the first four games of the series, he shot just 29.2 percent from the 3-point range. In Game 5, he scored 32 points and shot 8 of 16 from the 3-point range to help Dallas.
“I stuck to the process,” he said, “and eventually I blew the lid off.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s game against Boston, Kerr said a point of emphasis would be to make sure Thompson got some good looks early in the rhythm.
As for Thompson’s film study – which he apparently tries to discredit – Golden State’s Draymond Green said he had not caught Thompson watching old clips of himself on YouTube.
“The reality is, if I did, we’d probably make fun of him,” Green said. “So it’s probably good that I haven’t.”
To be fair, Thompson doesn’t have much trouble staying grounded on his own. On Tuesday, he recalled where he was about a year ago: working out in an empty arena with Rick Celebrini, the team’s director of sports medicine and performance.
“To be back here at this stage,” Thompson said, “you’ve just got to remind yourself to keep working because it’s a blessing and really an honor to be here.”