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Warriors, Klay Thompson rally to force Game 7 vs. Rockets

OAKLAND — With the light about to go out on their championship hopes, the Warriors found their fabled “switch” just in time.

Klay Thompson hit the turbo button in the third quarter, delivering a shooting performance reminiscent of his Game 6 heroics in the 2016 Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City. Once Thompson ignited the Warriors with his wondrous touch, the rest of his teammates caught fire, too.

And suddenly the once-doomed Warriors looked like the kind of team capable of winning a Game 7 on the road, as they must do Monday night to reach a fourth consecutive NBA Finals.

How can the Warriors look so bad, then so good?

“If you have any idea, please let me know. I have no clue why our team is like this,” Coach Steve Kerr said after a 115-86 victory in Game 6 on Saturday at Oracle Arena. “But this is kind of what we do. We’re kind of up and down a little bit.”

The “switch” is the metaphor for when the Warriors snap out of their ho-hum, second-rate play and go back to looking like the dynasty they’re supposed to be. Their higher gear was nowhere to be found in the crunch-time minutes during Games 4 and 5, when some of the greatest players ever assembled looked like strangers on a pickup court.

After that loss, the Warriors did what they always do: They promised everybody it would be OK. They lead the league is assurances. Their official motto is still “Strength in Numbers” … but only because that looks better on a T-shirt than “Eh, We’ll Be Fine.”

“I’m extremely confident that we’re going to take care of business,” Kerr said minutes after the meltdown.

But for long stretches of Game 6 on Saturday night, that looked like empty talk. Even though the Warriors were at home, and even though the Rockets were without star point guard Chris Paul (hamstring), the Warriors fell behind by 17 points in an instant.

“You could tell Houston could see it,” Kerr said. “They could see the Finals right here.”

Even facing elimination, the Warriors couldn’t shoot and their defense was a turnstile. The Rockets hit 8 of their first 12 shots from 3-point range and looked comfortable doing so.

“Our defense was awful to start the game,” Kerr said. “It was sort of a head-scratcher. I was more worried about the offense coming into the game.”

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) gestures after teammate Klay Thompson (11) makes a 3-point basket against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, May 26, 2018. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets 115-86. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) gestures after teammate Klay Thompson (11) makes a 3-point basket against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, May 26, 2018. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets 115-86. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

In fairness, the offense was bad, too. Stephen Curry nearly went splashless in the first half, going just 1 for 7 from 3-point range. Kevin Durant was 1 of 6 from the field in the first quarter.

And the hungry Rockets had 19 fast-break points to the Warriors’ 4. As Houston built its lead, 19,596 fans shifted uncomfortably.

What in the name of the Hamptons Five was going on here?

“I think Draymond at halftime used the John Wooden line,” Kerr said, referring to the famed UCLA coach. “He said, ‘Be quick but don’t hurry.’ We were in such a hurry for that first, maybe, 18-20 minutes, and (then) we kind of settled in.”

Finally, with the impatient crowd yearning for something — anything to cheer for — Thompson flipped the switch to full blast. He scored 12 points in the third quarter, including going 4 of 5 on 3-point shots, and exhorted the crowd along the way.

“I feel like we’re the best team in the world and most fun team in the world when we’re pushing that ball,” Thompson said. “We’ve got too much talent … Trust the man ahead of us. It will end up working in our favor most of the time.”

Thompson, the Warriors player who speaks the least, backed up everybody else’s brash talk by changing the scoreboard — and the feel.

When he hit a 24-foot jumper with 3:35 to play in the third quarter, to put the Warriors ahead for good at 76-74, the crowd noise practically blew the Oracle Arena roof to Fremont.

“I like that fire and energy when you know he’s engaged and appreciating what he’s bringing to the game,” Curry said. “A little fist pump, or him jumping up and down, whatever it is. When he’s animated, that’s good for us.”

Thompson’s shooting proved contagious. Curry snapped out of his funk and hit 3 of 4 shots from 3-point range in the third quarter.

In all, Curry (29 points), Durant (23) and Thompson (23) combined for the most points by that trio (87) in these playoffs.


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