Klay Thompson comes off bench 1st time in career, drops 35

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Klay Thompson came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season to knock down seven 3-pointers and score a season-high 35 points, leading the Golden State Warriors to a 140-137 victory over the hostUtah Jazz on Thursday night.

Thompson was a reserve for the first time since March 11, 2012, during the lockout-delayed first season of his career. Rookie guard Brandin Podziemski replaced him in the starting lineup and finished with 13 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds.

"You can do two things: You can pout or you can go out there and respond," said Thompson, who became the sixth Golden State player to surpass 15,000 points. "I thought I did the latter very well tonight."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Thompson had started 727 straight games, the fourth-longest active streak in the NBA, trailing only DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry.

Coach Steve Kerr had a discussion with Thompson on Thursday morning where he informed him of the change in the starting lineup. Kerr acknowledged Thompson wasn't thrilled with the decision and that fueled what turned out to be his best offensive performance in an up-and-down season.

"It's been a tricky season for him and for us," said Kerr, who earned his 500th victory as Golden State's coach. "It's not as easy to do what Klay did five or six years ago for him. I think this could be a good balance to get the best out of Klay and to get the best out of our team."

Thompson, who missed the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons because of injuries, has struggled at times this season. He is averaging 17 points, the lowest since his second season, and has occasionally not been part of coach Kerr's finishing lineup.

"He's just such a competitor," Kerr said after the game. "I've watched him win championships. I've seen him hit a million big shots. I've seen him guard the toughest guys in the league. Klay's a champion. He's an incredible player, great person."

Thompson scored 17 points in the Warriors' 84-point first half, but they needed a missed 3-pointer by Collin Sexton to hold on for their eighth win in 10 games.

Golden State totaled 48 second-quarter points -- a season high for both the Warriors and a Jazz opponent.

Thompson stepped up his dominance after halftime, totaling 18 points in the third quarter alone. He made five baskets -- including four 3-pointers -- over a four-minute stretch to help Golden State extend its lead to 120-102 entering the fourth quarter.

His 35-point game was the first for a Warriors player off the bench since Ian Clark in 2017 against theSan Antonio Spurs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I thought about [former Spurs great] Manu Ginobli, that guy has four rings and gold medal, and he came off the bench his whole career, and I don't think anyone looks down on his Hall of Fame candidacy," Thompson said. "He's one of the greats. And I thought, I mean, I embraced it before tip, and I mean, I deserved it really. "

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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