Sports

Klay Thompson’s Game 6 history really is that impressive


Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals signals the 13th time we’re witnessing Klay Thompson participate on his favorite stage.

Thompson has a penchant for big moments in these spots. “Game 6 Klay” is a fabled title that was bestowed upon Thompson after he hit 11 three-pointers to help the Golden State Warriors stave off elimination at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 Western Conference Finals in the most iconic performance of his career.

But is this reputation just another tired narrative derived by lazy talking heads? Or is there something tangibly different about his Game 6 performances? And if so, is there a common thread tying all these performances together that points to Thompson adding yet another Game 6 gem to his already impressive greatest hits album?

This narrative is fact, not fiction

The talking heads weren’t lying when they said that Game 6 Klay was a different animal.

Thanks to the Warriors’ dynastic run over the last decade, we have a pretty solid sample size of Game 6s (12) to compare to Thompson’s other playoff performances. Here’s how the splits look:

Klay Thompson Career Playoff Stats

Game Games Played Team Winning % PPG 3-Point % True Shooting %
Game Games Played Team Winning % PPG 3-Point % True Shooting %
Game 6s 12 75% 20.7 49.50% 59.80%
Non Game 6s 132 70% 19.2 40.20% 55.70%

*Data Provided by Basketball Reference

As you can see, there’s a sizable difference between Thompson’s Game 6 performances and his other playoff games. But there’s more to the story than that. For instance, look at how Thompson’s Game 6s hold up against the other two all-time great sharpshooting two-guards of the last thirty years (both of whom are notorious for clutch shot-making):

Game 6 Career Stats

Game Games Played Team Winning % PPG 3-Point % True Shooting % Game Score
Game Games Played Team Winning % PPG 3-Point % True Shooting % Game Score
Ray Allen 16 50% 18.8 39.80% 59.7 12.7
Reggie Miller 14 43% 19.1 34.30% 55.60% 11.9
Klay Thompson 12 75% 20.7 49.50% 59.80% 13.4

*Data Provided by Basketball Reference

Here, we even added in John Hollinger’s Game Score metric to get a better sense of each player’s overall impact on the box score, and even with that addition, Thompson still sweeps the board against the two hall of famers.

Thompson’s conversation rates in Game 6s also surpass another hall of fame bound perimeter artist, his own Splash Brother, Stephen Curry. Who shoots a respectable but not quite Thompsian 38.3 percent from three and 57.5 percent true shooting overall.

One more mind-boggling wrinkle to add to all of this is that four of Thompson’s first five Game 6s were absolute duds – never eclipsing the 34 percent mark from the floor in any of those four contests. It wasn’t until his aforementioned duel with the Thunder that he really started dealing, and since then, man, has he been cooking.

Klay Thompson Game 6 Splits

Game PPG 3-Point % True Shooting % Game Score
Game PPG 3-Point % True Shooting % Game Score
First 5 10.2 31.80% 43.50% 4.2
Last 7 28.1 54.40% 66.30% 20.1

*Data Provided by Basketball Reference

Hell, even world-renowned podcaster, Draymond Green, subscribes to the Game 6 Klay ideology.

“Game 6 Klay is still Game 6 Klay” Green said on The Draymond Green Show. “I think one of the beautiful things about Game 6 Klay is that obviously became this narrative, like this thing people say. Klay really believes that now. Like in his head, he’s like, ‘its Game 6, of course, I’m going to do this, are you crazy?’… And he believes Game 6 Klay is a real thing, and guess what, if Killa Klay believes it, then I believe it.”

The Common Thread

The most shocking thing about revisiting the tape on his past Game 6s is the lack of grandeur in his execution. He’s not out there soldiering through a bevy of herculean jumpers while being shadowed by three defenders or galloping into oncoming traffic to the tune of twenty drives a game. He’s doing what he always does: playing his role as the low-maintenance silent assassin within the Golden State perpetual motion machine.

The following montage from his other Game 6s highlights most of his usual modus operandi for getting buckets: threes curling off pindowns, transition treys ignited by Green, post-split action jumpers, looks created by Curry’s gravity, relocation triples, wing/step up pick and rolls, and his good ole’ random forays of self-creation.

The major commonality in all of this is the simplicity with which he engages these high-leverage encounters. Thompson, like most players, is at his best when he’s not trying to over assert himself and is playing naturally within the flow of the game.

This tendency is emblematic of his tracking data outputs in these situations (we only have data for ten of his twelve Game 6s because tracking data has only been publicly available since 2013-14). According to this data, Thompson is most efficient when he goes into no-dribble Killa Klay mode, as he’s converted on 55.4 percent of the 83 Game 6 shots he’s taken without dribbling (56.1 percent on no-dribble threes).

Can he do it again?

Well, considering that his most recent Game 6 masterpiece is barely even a month old, a repeat performance is certainly not out of the realm of possibility for Thompson.

However, if that wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s an amalgamation of clips from these NBA Finals that feature (in the same playtype order listed earlier) the very functions that made up Thompson’s past Game 6s – hammering home the notion that despite two catastrophic injuries, he’s still got it.

And if even that mixtape of Splash debauchery doesn’t sell you, then let the man explain the phenomenon to you himself.

You hear that? He loves the moments. He loves the pressure. And what larger setting than Game 6 of the NBA Finals. In a matchup featuring two of the league’s eleven original franchises. In a game where the stakes are as dire as ever. In a moment that could serve as validation for Thompson, for the years of arduous rehabbing in the shadows.

I believe in the legend of Game 6 Klay, so does Dray, so does Klay, and so should you before it’s too late. Before Klay Thompson rains down a plethora of threes from the heavens, delivers another classic installment, and reminds us all exactly how he got that name.



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