Kendra Andrews ESPN
PHOENIX – Warriors guard Klay Thompson was ejected for the first time in his career after committing two consecutive technical fouls during a chippy third quarter in Golden State’s 134-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
It marked the first time that the All-Star was removed from career in 759 games in the regular season and in the playoffs.
Thompson was verbally sparring with Phoenix’s Devin Booker for several minutes during the third quarter and repeated over and over again four times, according to Booker. With 6½ minutes to go into the quarter, the two kept exchanging words and bumped, resulting in double technical points for both players.
“There was chirping on both sides, I know,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green. “I think [the Suns] were very emotional.”
As Thompson was about to run away, Mikal Bridges ran into him. Thompson pushed Bridges away and shortly afterwards he suffered his second technical foul, which led him out of the field. Thompson had to be stopped by teammate Stephen Curry and Warriors assistant coach Chris DeMarco.
“After he got kicked out, he had a lot more to say, which I love,” Curry said. “The back and forth is part of [the game]And I like that he’s involved in that regard because it’s important to him.”
In the third quarter, a total of seven technical fouls were committed between the two teams, all in less than six minutes. Green and Warriors coach Steve Kerr, along with Phoenix players Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton were also whistled for technicalities for several outbursts, most of which targeted the officials. According to research by Elias Sports Bureau, those seven tech players were the most equal in one quarter over the past 25 seasons.
“I think both teams want it. I don’t think it’s personal. I think we just respect them. They are the champions,” said Phoenix coach Monty Williams. “So they’re going to get our best because they’re the best. So I think a lot of the emotion is just about being competitive. We don’t take it personally at all, we just understand better that once all that when things happen, we have to Let’s focus again on being competitive and trying to win the game.”
As Thompson left the field, he kept yelling at the Suns’ bench, waving at them as he pointed to his hand, and repeating the same message he was chirping in Booker’s ear.
“We’re just two competitors,” Booker said. “I love Klay Thompson. I’ve been doing that for a long time. But it doesn’t excuse us being competitive and talking to each other. I’ve always admired his game, how he plays on both sides of the ball. And of course, the rings obvious.”
Booker described the trash talk between the two, summarizing, “They’ve had four rings, repeated over and over, and they do, and they did.”
Thompson did not speak to the media after the game.
With Booker as the primary defender, Thompson shot 0-for-4, including 0-for-3 of 3, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He finished the night with just 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting in 19 minutes.
Meanwhile, Booker led all scorers by 34 points on 10-for-19 shooting, including three 3-pointers. He also made 11 of 14 free throws. Booker has scored 130 points in his first four games, the most in four games in a season in Suns history.
“He and Book have kind of gotten into it over the years, they’re just competitors, both great players – I remember four or five years ago when Book first came out, Klay was in his prime , he did it one night in Oracle and the same kind of thing happened,” Kerr said. “There were no expulsions, but they are both competitive, they guard each other, and this is the NBA. The highest league in the world, things like that happen.”
Devin Booker said the Warriors’ four championship rings were a focus of Klay Thompson’s trash talk with him. Rick Scuteri/AP
Kerr said Thompson was frustrated playing under his current minute restriction as he returns to full fitness. During the shootaround earlier in the day, Thompson said he didn’t expect to have the same patience as when he returned from a two-year hiatus last season.
“Klay cares so much about his own impact on the team,” Kerr said. “He wants it so much and he’s trying to force it now. He’s trying too hard. But he’s done that many times, even before the injuries. So I’ll remind him: there are still 78 games to go.”
In the midst of the chaos in the third, the Suns played well and their lead grew to 19 points by the end of the quarter. Without Thompson, the defending NBA champions could never rally and the Suns held a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
“We have to remember that [as] defending champion, there’s a different glow when you come in,” Curry said. “Teams try to come to you, especially on the road, to get their audience in. Their emotions run high and they fed on them. … They had a bit of an edge after that that they capitalized on.”
In the moments after Thompson’s ejection, the Suns scored the Warriors 22-9. But Kerr said he doesn’t believe when the match was lost. Instead, it was at the free-throw line, where Phoenix made 34 attempts (and made 28) against Golden State’s 17 attempts (with 13 attempts).
“We’ve lost our way,” Kerr said. “We have a lot of work to do. We are by no means a finished product. … We are a long way from where we need to be now. We are a very bad defensive team, and that does not win in this league .”
The Warriors’ defensive woes begin with their transitional defenses, Kerr said. When they cleaned up that problem, they started to get dirty, which Kerr attributed to being late in the rotations. The Warriors let the Suns score 72 points in the first half – the third game they’ve had at least 70 points in a half this season.
“The defense commitment is not there,” Green said. “That’s something we need to be better at, and it starts with me. And I’ll make sure we get there. But right now we’re a decent attacking team and a bad defensive team. I don’t expect it to be like that It’s something we can change, we just have to commit to it.”
This report includes information from The Associated Press.