Klay burns Heat after day off well spent in South Beach

Klay burns Heat after day off well spent in South Beach originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

A few hours at the beach in South Florida followed by a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean was the perfect recipe to get Klay Thompson ready for his first start in nearly two weeks.

Looking refreshed and relaxed from the mini-vacation, Thompson got the Warriors going and stayed hot throughout the evening while pacing a 113-92 win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday that re-ignited the team’s dimming playoff hopes.

Thompson scored a game-high 28 points while shooting 11 of 20, finishing a blistering plus-25 in a game that the Warriors absolutely needed to have following a pair of frustrating losses to the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

“There’s something just about being in this tropical air that just has you feeling loose,” Thompson told reporters at Kaseya Center. “A must-win and I’m really happy how we responded after a tough loss in Minnesota.”

Thompson has played the role of loyal soldier ever since being benched near the NBA All-Star break. He didn’t make a fuss publicly about his demotion and had been a steady contributor off the bench for the past month.

But with the Warriors in a team-wide funk in recent weeks, coach Steve Kerr wanted to shake things up so he inserted Thompson back into the starting lineup in place of rookie Brandin Podziemski.

The thinking was that with Thompson on the court, there would be more room for players like Jonathan Kuminga and Andrew Wiggins to attack through. They did, but at the same time, Thompson took full advantage of his opportunity and showed that he can still be the potent threat that he was on Golden State’s four championship teams.

Yet Kerr isn’t ready to commit to keeping Thompson with the starters, citing a specific need against the Heat.

“I just felt like (we needed) a little more spacing on the floor to start the game,” Kerr said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s permanent. I just felt like tonight that was important.”

Don’t expect Thompson to make much of a fuss no matter which way Kerr goes. He understands where he’s at in his career and where the Warriors are at in the season. Although he got some love against the Heat, Thompson knows he can be back on the bench Wednesday in Orlando.

Asked about his pride, Thompson was very forthcoming.

“I’ve been prideful ever since I laced up basketball sneakers,” Thompson said. “A lot of who I am is reflected how I play on the basketball court. My father was a hooper, my older brother is a hooper and I am as well. I take great pride in just trying to be my best nightly. It’s a really hard thing to do but it’s what the greats aspire to do on a nightly basis.”

It’s the 10th time this season that Thompson has made at least six 3-pointers in a game, but it was his first such game since Feb. 27.

“He’s a key part to our team,” center Kevon Looney said. “He’s been playing really, really (well) since probably before All-Star break. He’s been putting good games together on both ends of the court. For us to be good and be a special team, we depend on him.”

Thompson said he tried to keep the same approach as a starter that he has been taking while coming off the bench.

That might sound simple enough but it’s a lot more difficult to put into practice.

“It’s a credit to him just in general on being able to respond to whatever he’s been asked to do this year, whether it’s coming off the bench, whether it’s starting,” guard Stephen Curry said. “Most people, maybe they think it’s easy to just transition from one to the other. It’s not. You have to kind of prepare your mind and your body to be ready for whatever is thrown at you. It’s a credit to him, his attitude and his preparation and going out there and hooping the way he does.”

There’s no denying that the Warriors must have more games like this from Thompson over the next two-and-a-half weeks if they are to squeak into the postseason.

Thompson, however, says it has to go deeper than that.

“Our last games we must play that brand of ball that has (been) so successful the last 10 years, moving it, switching on defense, on-ball tenacity and just trusting each other and playing self-less,” Thompson said. “Then most importantly having fun. When we’re having fun and we’re playing connected, it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.”

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