Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) scores over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the fourth quarter in Game 6 Saturday night. (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)
Maybe what the Celtics should really be looking for is the next Klay Thompson in the June 23 draft.
For all the talk about who to take with the third pick or if they should trade for Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel, the Celtics could use a long scorer like Thompson, the somewhat overshadowed other half of the Splash Brothers. For anyone who missed Saturday night’s epic 41-point effort from Thompson, they missed one of the greatest performances in an elimination game.
Thompson led one of the most dramatic comebacks in the fourth quarter. He made an NBA playoff record 11 3-pointers in 18 attempts and powered the Warriors to a 33-18 fourth quarter that turned an eight-point deficit into a stunning 108-101 Warriors win in Game 6 that sent the Western finals back to Oakland for Game 7 Monday night.
Thompson was the 11th overall pick of the Warriors in the 2011 draft, behind Brandon Knight (8th), Kemba Walker (9th) and Jimmer Fredette (10th). Thompson has been playoff MVP of the Warriors quest to finish off their historic season. He’s been averaging 26.5 points in the postseason, including 31.0 points in the five-game win over Portland, a series they were without the injured Steph Curry for the first three games.
There are a number of shooters like Thompson in the draft, including Jamaal Murray, who would be available at No. 3, and possibly No. 16. NBADraft.net has the Celtics taking Buddy Hield, the shooting guard and Wooden Player of the Year in college basketball. Hield doesn’t have the height of Thompson, who is 6-foot-7, but he is considered one of the most mature players ready to contribute right away in the pros.
NBADraft.net also has the Celtics taking Cheick Diallo, the big man out of Kansas. Those mocks, of course, don’t take into consideration potential trades.
Trippin: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge left for Israel Friday to watch the highly-touted prospect and potential No. 3 draft pick play, along with another European star in Ante Zizic.
The Celtics have three first-round picks at Nos. 3, 16 and 23.
Both Ainge and son Austin, the team’s director of player personnel left for Israel on Friday to watch Bender in two practices Saturday and Sunday. There will be no game action.
18-year-old Bender plays for one of the top teams in Israel (Maccabi Tel Aviv). This season, he’s been had his playing time limited to coming off the bench, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds on the season. But Danny Ainge has longed for a player with his height (7-foot-1) and shooting ability. He is still underweight for the NBA but many scouts feel he has a great upside that make him worthy of a top-5 pick.
Austin Ainge has made several trips to Europe in the past two seasons and acknowledged that last week but indicated that pre-draft rules prohibited him from talking about Bender until the early-entrant deadline, which passed on Wednesday.
Flashback: Saturday night in Oklahoma City was a throwback for all Celtics fans old enough to remember the old school days of the early Larry Bird 1980s.
The Warriors will attempt to become the tenth team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA playoff history and the first to do it in the conference finals since the 1981 Bird-led Celtics did it to the Sixers. That year, the Celtics used the series to catapult their way to the first of three NBA titles during the Bird run in the 80s. Bird’s Celtics won Game 5 at the Garden and then trailed the Sixers in Game 6 at the Spectrum, like the Warriors did Saturday night.
The Sixers led 31-18 after the first quarter and 73-70 after three. Then the Celtics outscored the Sixers, 30-25, in the fourth to force Game 7. In one of the most thrilling Game 7s ever played, the Sixers led 75-71, heading into the final quarter. Then, the Celtics held the Sixers scoreless in the final minute. The Celtics trailed 89-82 with four minutes left and scored the next nine points, holding on for a 91-90 win when Bobby Jones threw the inbounds pass off the backboard.
Saturday night, the Thunder were on the verge of eliminating the 73-win Warriors and sending them home and putting an ignominious end to their historic season. Oklahoma City led 96-89 with 5:09 left. They led 101-99 with 2:22 left. They did not score again as Thompson completed his night for the ages, with some help from MVP Steph Curry. Will they be able to finish the deal Monday night in Oakland. Will Oracle rock like the Garden did that afternoon of May 3, 1981? Stay tuned.
Memorial Day is a day for remembrance. That took on additional meaning around the NBA this weekend with the news of the shooting death of New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones. The promising 23-year-old guard died early Saturday morning in Dallas. Police said Dejean-Jones was shot and that the homicide unit is conducting an investigation. But there is a sad, ironic twist to the story. “An individual who believed to be breaking into the apartment of an estranged acquaintance inadvertently broke into the wrong apartment,” Joshua Pool, a manager at the Camden Belmont located northeast of downtown Dallas, wrote in an email obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “After breaking in, the intruder was shot and later taken via ambulance to a local hospital. Fortunately, no residents were injured.”
Dejean-Jones was breaking into his own apartment after the intruder broke into the wrong apartment. Dejean-Jones kicked open the front door and entered his own apartment, according to a statement released on the Dallas police website. The resident said he heard Dejean-Jones enter and retrieved a handgun and shot Dejean-Jones.