PULLMAN – The date is still to be determined, but at some point during Washington State’s 2019-20 basketball season, the Cougars will get a visit from Klay Thompson and formally retire the number of the program’s most recognizable and successful alum.
Thompson is a five-time NBA All-Star who has won three championships with Golden State, but whether he’ll come back to Pullman this winter with his fourth NBA ring will be determined over the next few weeks.
Now in the midst of his eighth season with Golden State, the former Cougars shooting guard has led the Warriors back to a familiar place: the NBA Finals. Thompson and Golden State will shoot for a three-peat when they open their best-of-seven series against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday at 6 p.m. (ABC).
Thompson will play in his 103rd career postseason game when Game 1 tips off in Toronto. Even as he’s lived in the shadows of teammates Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Thompson has produced a handful of key moments for the Warriors throughout their golden run.
Five of Thompson’s best playoff games with Golden State:
1. Western Conference Finals at Oklahoma City, Game 6 (2016)
When recounting the best individual games of Thompson’s NBA career, two regular-season games come to mind: a 52-point outing when he scored a league-record 37 points in the third quarter and a career-high 60-point game against Indiana in 2016. While both will live in the Thompson Hall of Fame, they came in relatively meaningless games and shouldn’t be placed in the same category as Thompson’s unforgettable 41-point effort in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals. With Golden State down 3-1, Thompson stroked in an NBA playoff-record 11 3-pointers to beat Oklahoma City and future teammate Durant 108-101. The Warriors downed the Thunder in Game 7, a win that many think helped them lure Durant in free agency and alter the trajectory of the NBA.
2. Western Conference Semifinals at Houston, Game 6 (2018)
Golden State’s series-clinching in Game 7 of this series will go down as one of the most memorable of this Warriors’ run, but getting there was the first step. Trailing Houston 3-2 in the series, Golden State outscored the Rockets 93-47 in the final three quarters to emerge with a 115-86 win. The Warriors trailed 61-51 at halftime, but won the second half 64-25, thanks in large part to a 3-point barrage from Thompson, who led Golden State on a slow night for Durant and scored 35 points, connecting on nine 3-pointers. Thompson defended and rebounded well, too, grabbing six boards and coming away with four steals.
3. Western Conference Semifinals at Houston, Game 6 (2019)
Mere coincidence or emerging trend? Thompson’s knack for delivering in Game 6 continued this postseason, when the Durant-less Warriors traveled to Houston with a 3-2 lead. On the offensive end, Thompson was overshadowed by Curry’s 33 points, but he poured in 27 of his own, on 10-of-20 shooting from the field, 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Thompson was also the primary defender on Houston’s James Harden, who finished as the game’s leading scorer, though his 35 points would come on an inefficient 11 of 25 and 6 of 15 from 3-point range.
4. NBA Finals at Cleveland, Game 3 (2017)
Durant’s deep dagger in the fourth quarter was the leading storyline, but Thompson’s steady scoring buoyed the Warriors in a 118-113 win at Quicken Loans Arena, helping push them to a 3-0 lead over Cleveland in the 2017 Finals. Thompson’s offense went under the radar on a night Golden State got 31 points from Durant, and Cleveland got a combined 77 from the tandem of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but the former Coug still scored 30 crucial points and made a game-high six 3s – on 11 attempts – to secure a five-point road win.
5. Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Antonio, Game 2 (2013)
In what was only Thompson’s eighth career playoff game, a 34-point outburst from the then 23-year-old lifted Golden State to a 100-91 win over San Antonio, tying the Western Conference semifinals 1-1. Thompson’s 34 points were a career high, but the second-year pro was just as determined on the boards, outrebounding San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Andrew Bogut. On a night he was 8 of 9 from beyond the arc, Thompson’s hot 3-point shooting fueled a 34-point second quarter for the Warriors, who eked out the win despite scoring just 17 points in the fourth quarter.