“Game 6 Klay” is a real thing.
The Warriors are counting on Klay Thompson adding to his legend and helping to close out the Celtics — along with another title.
The NBA Finals will return to Boston’s TD Garden on Thursday with the Celtics trailing three games to two and trying to stave off a Golden State championship. But the Celtics will have to deal not only with Stephen Curry in MVP form, but also with Thompson seemingly building toward another one of his noted — and inexplicable — Game 6 outbursts.
“I’d like to have a big night and win the game. It doesn’t matter what any of us do individually, the main goal is just to win one game,” said Thompson, who is averaging 21.7 points in the last three games. “I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself to live up to my name. I just want to go out there and play free, trust my teammates. And I know great things will happen if I do those two things.
“I realize I’m on a really good streak right now of Game 6s. I don’t know how long that’ll last, hopefully, obviously [Thursday]. It’s obviously a nickname I earned. I want to live up to it. At the same time, I don’t want to go in there and play hero ball: I’m just going to be in there and be myself, do what I’ve been doing the last few games. I know that’ll allow us to be successful.”
Coach Steve Kerr’s arrival in 2014-15 coincided with Thompson’s arrival as a Game 6 monster. He has averaged 24.7 points on 54 percent shooting from 3-point range in nine Game 6’s since then. The Warriors have made the Finals six times and won three titles, with a chance Thursday to close out a fourth.
“It has nothing to do with us, has nothing to do with strategy: It just has to do with Klay,” Kerr said. “He’s got a killer instinct. He’s really talented.”
That killer instinct was on display in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, when Thompson lit up the Thunder for 41 points on 11-for-18 shooting from 3-point range. Including that night, in the seven Game 6’s he has played since (even including the 2019 Finals against the Raptors, when he tore his ACL), Thompson has averaged 28.1 points on 54.4 percent shooting from behind the arc coming into Thursday.
“Game 6 Klay, I don’t know how he’s been able to do it. Just his personality, no moment is too big for him in terms of hooping, enjoying himself, embracing hostile crowds, or if we’re at home enjoying the home atmosphere,” Curry said. “He has a knack for those type of big moments. Just so happened to be Game 6. And he has another opportunity to add to that tale [Thursday].”
Curry himself is coming off an unusually quiet 16-point, 7-for-22 effort in Game 5, which the Warriors still won thanks to the two-way play of Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
Thompson has kept Boston stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in front of him and prevented them from slicing through the lane in isolations.
The Celtics are going to have to turn the tables if they want to stave off elimination, keep Golden State from celebrating a title on their parquet floor and keep alive their own hopes of a record-breaking 18th championship.
“All the motivation in the world. Game 6 on our home floor in front of our fans, last game in TD Garden. Nothing more needs to be said,” Brown said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. We got to embrace it. Ain’t no other way around it. Last game on our home floor to embody our whole season. We’re looking to give it everything we got. We’re not scared. We do not fear the Golden State Warriors. We want to come out and play the best version of basketball that we can.
“We haven’t backed down from a challenge all season. We look at it as no different now. … We put ourselves in the position to be in this series with a team that’s won and done it before. We’re looking forward to Game 6. We’re looking forward to coming out and getting the win, forcing a Game 7.”