Game 3 win in Utah a reminder for Warriors of what it will take going forward

Game 3 win in Utah a reminder for Warriors of what it will take going forward

This is the game the Golden State Warriors needed to experience, apparently – the one they needed to endure to remind themselves that the job of a champion is to know the difference been how much and how, and the difference between how and what.

“How much” is what you worry about when you’re trying to dominate a team and break its will (see Games 2 and 4 of the Portland series). “How” is how well you adhere to your core philosophy (see Portland 1 and Utah 1 and 2). And “what” is what happens when the first two don’t work and you have to figure out how to win anyway (see Portland 3 and Utah 3).

And looking nothing like they have through the postseason to date, they still beat the Jazz in Game Almost The Last of this Western Conference semifinal, 102-91.

And trust us, they’ll secretly thank the Jazz for this game, and thank themselves for the reminder that elegance makes champions a lot less frequently than toughness of purpose.

And before we go any deeper with this, Kevin Durant. Simply Kevin Durant.

“You can search for answers,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said helplessly after the game. “But sometimes the answers are right in front of your bench.”

True, the Warriors know all these ball lessons because they have lived them for four consecutive springs, but it is a lesson even the best teams have to relearn now and then. The playoffs are different. They are a pyramid of difficult, and the further one advances, the harder it gets because the physics demand it.

So Saturday came, and Saturday was a huge kick in the nethers for those who have staked their fandom on a championship that becomes a coronation because the Warriors are supposed to be so many parsecs beyond every other team in the game.

But they won. They won despite horrible shooting from Stephen Curry (6-20/3-11) and Klay Thompson (1-9/0-4). They won despite a extended Draymond Green snit at official Bennie Adams that caused tongues to wag about his reputation (again). They won despite playing Utah’s game, Utah’s way.

In fairness, they also won because of some things – a high-defense, low turnover performance that prevented their possessions not to crush them, Durant’s absolute signature game as a Warrior (38/13/a thing with Rudy Gobert near game’s end), and because after losing the early initiative and chunking a substandard second quarter, dominated the fourth.

And therein is the real lesson here. They hadn’t had that game yet – not even Game 3 of the Portland series. And they will have more, even if they don’t end up looking exactly like this one.

Houston doesn’t win by holding the opponent to 100. San Antonio does, but they are more flexible with pace than Utah. Boston has the magic of Isaiah Thomas, but the burden of having to play a lot of games. And Cleveland has the Titan.

But Golden State has presented itself all along as a team whose secret skill is its defense, and while that showed itself again, this was a win that could be cheerfully claimed by Durant’s salvational performance and a team-wide level of stubborn, even crusty indomitability.

Durant will be Durant, but the Warriors need that second attribute to not only stamp this series as afterthought but to steel themselves for the next time this kind of game happens. They can take a lot of solace from knowing they still have that in the tool belt because they'll need it again.

Some time early in the next round, we’re betting.

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Many reasons why Klay Thompson wants to play for Warriors his entire career

Don’t fall for the stories implying the Warriors, because they are so collaborative, are a team comprising individuals without ego. It’s an oft-implied crock, a myth that fits a particular and happy narrative.

So please dismiss the notion that Klay Thompson is without ego. If he were, he would not be a four-time All-Star. And he surely would not be so swaggeringly confident that every jump shot he takes, no matter the conditions or whether he has missed nine in a row, is destined to drop through the net.

Thompson, 28, has a keen awareness of his interests, and being individually celebrated for basketball is nowhere near the top of his list. Despite the bon vivant lifestyle conveyed through social media, his hoops motto is not “look at me” but “look at us.”

So when Thompson becomes a free agent next July -- unless he agrees to a prior extension -- he isn’t the type to shop himself with designs on being “that dude.” Those emotionally attached to the Warriors can take comfort when Thompson says, as he did a few days ago, that he wants to be a Warrior “for life.”

Thompson’s father, Mychal, whose NBA career lasted 13 years, took it step further.

“You can mark it down,” Mychal Thompson said over the weekend.

This is in accord with what I was told in a conversation with Mychal last month. In multiple chats over the past year, he has been firm in his belief that his son would re-sign with the Warriors.

It’s in line with what Klay told NBC Sports Bay Area last Sept. 29, saying he wanted to be a part of a group that could “be known as one of the greatest teams of our era.”

As Thompson’s incumbent team, the Warriors have the advantage. They can pay him more than any other team might offer. And he is amenable to taking a discounted contract -- though discounted only so much.

The Warriors have given every indication they understand Thompson’s value, which goes beyond the tangible. He has played for two NBA coaches, Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr, both of whom concluded Thompson requires zero maintenance. That attribute, folks, is rare and precious.

Growing up the middle son in a NBA household, Klay was taught to appreciate collective success. When he says he doesn’t take the prosperity of the Warriors for granted, as he often does, he means it.

Growing up between two athletic brothers, Mychel and Trayce, Klay learned teamwork in a very real sense. Julie Thompson is more reticent than her husband Mychal -- as is 99 percent of the world’s population -- but is, above all, a voice of reason. When she speaks, the family listens.

Since being drafted in 2011, Thompson has made six trips to the playoffs in seven seasons, missing only as a rookie.  Of those six consecutive playoff appearances, the last four have landed the Warriors in the NBA Finals, with three championships to show for it. He has been the physical backbone of the squad, missing the fewest games and excelling on both offense and defense.

Thompson has had, by any measure, a charmed career. He knows this would not be true if not for the contributions of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston and a couple dozen others who wore the same jersey.

So when it’s time to put a name in big, bold letters atop the marquee, Klay would be the last Warrior to care. He doesn’t want it, partly because he doesn’t like it but mostly such trivialities give him no gratification.

Nah, he’d rather ride this wave for as long as it’s going.

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Mychal Thompson wants Klay to emulate James Harden in one aspect in 2018-19

Klay Thompson is a well-rounded, versatile player. He shot 52.6 percent from 2-point range last season. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range. He made 83.7 percent of his free throws. He averaged 2.5 assists per game. He's the Warriors' best perimeter defender.

There's not a noticeable weakness to his game.

But his father Mychal spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler on Saturday to talk about what kind of differences we'll see in Klay will be during the 2018-19 season and he shared the goal he's set for his son.

"I think you'll see a hungrier player. He's going to try to get more versatile, try to get to the basket a little more, more free throws, being more efficient on offense that way. I always tell him, try to make it a goal to shoot eight (free throws) a game. Eight or 10, like James Harden does," Mychal Thompson told Ostler.

Thompson attempted a career low 1.3 free throw attempts last season. His high-water mark was 3.3 free throw attempts per game during the 2014-15 season. By comparison, Harden attempted 10.1 free throw attempts last season and has surpassed 10 attempts per game in five of the last six seasons.

Of course, the elder Thompson was asked about his son's free agency next summer. Klay told the Bay Area News Group on Saturday that he wants to remain with the Warriors for the rest of his career. His father said the same thing at the Thompson Family Foundation's charity golf tournament on Saturday.

“Oh yeah, you can mark it down. Klay’s going to retire in the Warriors’ uniform. He’s going to play at Chase Center (the Warriors’ new arena, opening in 2019), and he’s not going to be at Chase Center as a visiting player, he’s going to be a Warrior for the next seven or eight years," Mychal said according to The Chronicle.