Sometimes in sports, all it takes is one game for a nickname to stick.
And when it comes to the Warriors, there are only three words — two words and a number, really — you need to identify one of their all-time greats:
Game 6 Klay.
The Warriors and basketball fans got the return of Game 6 Klay on Friday night, and Thompson’s 12th career Game 6 had a start to meet his well-earned nickname. The sharpshooter scored 17 in the first half, draining 5-of-7 shots from 3-point range to lead the Warriors to a 53-51 halftime lead. He even picked up a technical foul, too.
But did you know that entering Friday night, Game 6 was not even the game in a playoff series in which Thompson averaged the most points per game?
That’s actually Game 5 — where Thompson’s averaged 21.6 points per game across 19 Game 5s played.
Klay PPG by playoff series game
Game 1: 19.2 (479 points, 25 games)
Game 2: 19.7 (493 points, 25 games)
Game 3: 18.6 (447 points, 24 games)
Game 4: 18.0 (449 points, 25 games)
Game 5: 21.6 (411 points, 19 games)
Game 6: 19.8 (218 points, 11 games) – before Friday’s game
Game 7: 17.3 (69 points, four games)
Overall: 19.3 (2,566 points, 133 games)
Game 6 Klay wasn’t much of a thing through the first three playoff trips for the Warriors, with five Game 6s in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Thompson only scored more than 10 points once in those five games (20 in the 2015 series-ender at Memphis).
He even had one of his biggest playoff clunkers ever in a Game 6, when he only scored five points and fouled out in just 25 minutes of play in the 2015 NBA Finals in Cleveland. The Warriors won the series and the title that night, though, a moment that has remained a meme ever since.
But Game 6 Klay as a capital-t Thing was born in his next Game 6 in Oklahoma City, during the 2016 Western Conference Finals. Thompson put up playoff career highs with 41 points and 11 3-pointers to help save the Warriors’ season.
From there, he’s been stellar (with one exception) in the sixth game of each series. He scored 25 in the Game 6 loss to the Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals, then scored 35 points against Houston in the 2018 Western Conference Finals to force a Game 7.
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2019 saw three Game 6s, and while he only scored nine against the Clippers in the first round (and let Kevin Durant go for 50), he scored 27 in the Western Conference Finals to help a Durant-less Warriors knock off the Rockets again and get to the NBA Finals.
Then, in those Finals against the Raptors, Thompson had 30 points in just three quarters. But the last two came after he tore his ACL driving to the hoop, memorably returning from the locker room to make the free throws.
So while Thompson’s overall Game 6 point average is 19.8 entering Friday night, in the six Game 6s since 2016? Thompson’s averaged 27.8 points.
It’s that Game 6 Klay who the basketball world — though probably not the Grizzlies — is so excited to see back.