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This kind of playoff triumph is three years in the making for Klay Thompson, who endured countless hours of rehab and heartache to reach this point again.
And after another spectacular shooting performance on the big stage, coach Mike Brown just wanted to offer up a congratulatory hug.
Instead, Thompson told Brown how much he will miss him next season when Brown takes over the Sacramento Kings – but they still have plenty of basketball left together.
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Thompson knocked down eight 3-pointers on the way to 30 points, Stephen Curry scored 29 with six 3s, and the Warriors eliminated the Memphis Grizzlies with a 110-96 win in Game 6 on Friday night.
The trip to the Western Conference finals is next, and coach Steve Kerr should be healthy from his bout with COVID-19.
“Honestly, especially the perspective I’ve gained from the injuries I’ve had, to now be able to compete at the highest level and be one of the final four teams, it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe honestly,” Thompson said. “It’s truly amazing and it just inspires me to keep going because I think we still have great basketball ahead of me.”
Curry found his shooting touch late and made two straight baskets for a 78-77 lead entering the final 12 minutes. Draymond Green contributed 14 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Kevon Looney returned to the starting lineup and grabbed 22 rebounds while Andrew Wiggins scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth with a pair of timely 3s.
It was Curry and Green who pushed for Looney to start after the Warriors discussed it on the flight home from Memphis after Wednesday’s embarrassing defeat.
Golden State – sent home by Memphis in the play-in tournament last year – withstood a testy series to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 2019, when the franchise reached its fifth straight NBA Finals before losing to Toronto.
The third-seeded Warriors will face the Phoenix-Dallas winner in the conference finals. Game 7 of that series is Sunday in Phoenix.
Thompson is back shining in the playoffs after his 2 1/2-year absence with a pair of serious injuries, first recovering from surgery for a tower ACL in his left knee and then an operation for a tower right Achilles tendon.
“That’s Klay. He expects to go out there and play great,” Brown said. “We expect him to go out there and play great.”
“Whoop that trick!” the delighted, raucous home crowd chanted in the waning moments, the fans’ steal away from memphis.
“It was good to see the fans embrace that,” Green said.
Dillon Brooks scored 30 points with a career-best seven 3-pointers but picked up his second flagrant foul of the series. Desmond Bane added 25.
Curry checked back in for the final 8:21 and delivered a 3 with 5:45 remaining off a beautiful bounce pass by Green. Looney found Green for an easy dunk the next time down, capping a decisive 10-0 run.
Brooks considered the challenge of facing the Splash Brothers something that will only make Memphis better.
“They know we’re going to come every single year,” they said. “We’re young, they’re getting old so they know we’re coming every single year.”
After Wednesday’s 134-95 debacle on the Grizzlies’ home floor in which they trailed by as many as 55, the Warriors were determined to do everything better, especially cutting down on the 22 turnovers leading to 29 points.
The Warriors outrebounded the Grizzlies 70-44, becoming the first team to grab 70 rebounds in a playoff game since San Antonio had 75 against Denver on May 4, 1983.
Bane scored the first two baskets of the game before the Warriors ran off 10 consecutive points, with a pair of layups by Green and a 3 by both Curry and Thompson.
Looney started after Jonathan Kuminga had the previous three games following the injury to guard Gary Payton II. He broke his left elbow in an awkward fall after being hit over the head by Brooks in Game 2 that earned Brooks a Flagrant 2 foul and one-game suspension.
He was booed loudly again at every chance by the sellout crowd at Chase Center. When Payton was shown on the big screen during a first-quarter timeout, he received a rousing ovation and touched his hand to his heart before encouraging them to get louder.
Memphis again played without All-Star guard And Morant, who missed his third straight game with a bone bruise in his troublesome right knee that the Grizzlies blamed on Jordan Poole pulling on the knee while going for a loose ball in Game 3.
“And there is one of the best point guards in this league, so you guys know that obviously it would change,” Brooks said. “But we made do with what we had.”
Thompson shot 11 for 22 – 8 of 14 from long range – and notched his fourth career postseason game with eight 3s to tie Ray Allen, Curry, and Damian Lillard for now in NBA history.
“We went on a two-year hiatus from the playoffs and mostly due to his absence,” Green said.
Grizzlies: Brooks had three flagrant points and finished one from an automatic one-game suspension. … Memphis missed its final 10 shots of the second quarter. … The Grizzlies held a 55-37 rebounding advantage in Game 5.
Warriors: Curry was 6 for 17 from deep. … Looney’s 11 first-quarter rebounds were a career high for any quarter. … F Otto Porter Jr. was out with soreness in his right foot. … Veteran Andre Iguodala, still sidelined with a left cervical disc injury, is scheduled to be re-evaluated again later next week.
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FRIDAY THE 13TH
The Warriors had a playoff game on Friday the 13th for just the second time in franchise history, previously when they beat the Bucks 100-86 on April 13, 1973, in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals to win the series 4-2, according to Elias.