The history of Klay Thompson’s Game 6 is really that impressive

The history of Klay Thompson’s Game 6 is really that impressive

The history of Klay Thompson’s Game 6 is really that impressive

Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals marks the 13th time we see Klay Thompson compete on his favorite stage.

Thompson has a penchant for big moments in these places. “Game 6 Klay” is a legendary title bestowed on Thompson after hitting 11 three-pointers to help the Golden State Warriors avoid the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2016 Western Conference Finals elimination in the most iconic performance of his career.

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

This story is fact, not fiction

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

Thanks to the Warriors’ dynastic run over the past decade, we’ve got a pretty solid sample size of Game 6s (12) to compare to Thompson’s other playoff performances. This is what the splits look like:

Klay Thompson Career Playoff Stats

Game Games played Team winning % PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal %
Game Games played Team winning % PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal %
Game 6s 12 75% 20.7 49.50% 59.80%
Non-play 6s 132 70% 19.2 40.20% 55.70%

*Data provided by basketball reference

As you can see, there is a significant difference between Thompson’s Game 6 performances and his other playoff games. But there’s more to the story than that. For example, check out how Thompson’s Game 6’s stack up against the other two great sharpshooting two-guards of all time from the past thirty years (both of whom are notorious for making clutch shots):

Game 6 Career Stats

Game Games played Team winning % PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal % game score
Game Games played Team winning % PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal % 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’ve even added John Hollinger’s Game Score stat to get a better sense of each player’s overall impact on box score, and even with that addition, Thompson is still sweeping the board against the two hall of famers.

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

Another 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 of the floor in any of those four games. 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 Split

Game PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal % game score
Game PPG 3-point % Real withdrawal % 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 continued The Draymond Green Show† “I think one of the great things about Game 6 Klay is that obviously this story has become like what people are saying. Klay really believes that now. Like in his head, he’s like, ‘it’s Game 6, of course, I’m going to do this, are you crazy?’… And he believes Game 6 Klay is real, and guess what, if Killa believes Klay, then I believe it.”

The Red Thread

The most shocking thing about revisiting the tape of his previous Game 6s is the lack of grandeur in his execution. He’s not there soldiering on a bevy of giant jumpers while shadowed by three defenders or galloping into oncoming traffic at a rate of twenty drives per game. He does what he always does: play his part as the low-maintenance silent killer within Golden State’s perpetual motion machine.

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

The main similarity in all of this is the simplicity with which he engages in these highly leveraged encounters. Thompson, like most players, is at his best when not trying to dominate and playing naturally within the flow of the game.

This tendency is characteristic of his tracking data output 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 going into Killa Klay mode with no dribbling, as he converted 55.4 percent of the 83 Game 6 shots he took without dribbling (56.1 percent on threes with no dribbling) .

Can he do it again?

Well, given that his most recent Game 6 masterpiece is barely a month old, a repeat appearance is certainly not out of the question for Thompson.

But if that wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s an amalgamation of clips from these NBA finals that (in the same play-type order as previously listed) feature the features that were part of Thompson’s earlier Game 6s – the idea that despite two catastrophic injuries, he still has it.

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

Do you hear that? He loves the moments. He likes the pressure. And what a bigger setting than Game 6 of the NBA Finals. In a matchup with two of the league’s eleven original franchises. In a game where the stakes are as big as ever. At a time that could serve as confirmation for Thompson, for the years of difficult convalescence in the shadows.

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