The Warriors were counting on Klay Thompson for their breakout game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night at Chase Center, but less than two minutes into Golden State’s 104-101 loss in the conference championship of the season, he was headed to the locker room for being ejected.
Thompson, Warriors forward Draymond Green and Timberwolves wing Jaden McDaniels were ejected by referees after a chaotic scene in the first quarter.
Thompson and McDaniels began to confront each other. Timberwolves quarterback Rudy Gobert then got his hands on Thompson, prompting a Green tackle and putting Gobert in trouble before the referees and coaches could separate everyone.
At that moment, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was angry about the decision to fire two of his players, while Gobert got away with it.
“It’s not possible for Klay Thompson to be ejected from the game,” Kerr told reporters after the game. “I mean he was running down the floor and the guy was grabbing his shirt and pulling him. So Klay backed off. There was no way Klay was going to get sacked. That was ridiculous. So I was upset about that and then Draymond’s piece of if you watch the replay, Rudy had his hands on his neck.” Clay, that’s why Draymond went after Rudy.
“I saw one replay right after it happened. The guys on the bench were telling us Rudy had Klay and that’s why Draymond went to Rudy. That’s all I know. But yeah, it was a weird way to start the game. Minute and a half.”
Kerr isn’t sure if Green will be suspended for his role in the altercation, but based on the referees’ assessment of the Warriors forward with a flagrant foul 2, there will likely be additional penalties coming from the NBA.
In the wake of the ejections, the Warriors had to proceed without Thompson, Green and Steph Curry, who was out with a right knee injury. Against the Timberwolves, it wouldn’t have surprised outside observers if Golden State walked out of the building.
But the fight and ejection seemed to energize the remaining Warriors players and fans inside Chase Center. Golden State led by five points at halftime and led by seven points in the fourth quarter.
Veteran midfielder Dario Saric told reporters after the match: “I don’t really remember what was happening, but the players intensified their attempts to protect their teammates.” “But the early game, sometimes it’s better at the beginning of the season. I’m not saying it’s great, great, but to show that the team is alive, the team is ready to play, the team is ready to deliver some things.” “On one hand it’s good, and on the other hand, it’s not basketball, but to get that kind of advantage, it was good.”
The unexpected star of the Warriors’ loss was rookie Brandin Podzemski, who was thrust into a much larger role with Curry, Thompson and Green unavailable. The Santa Clara product wound up playing a career-high 39 minutes and finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field.
While Kerr was angry about how the fallout from the fight unfolded, Podzemski had a different view.
“I thought it was amazing,” Podzemski told reporters. “When Draymond and Klay came into it, I think that’s what sparked the energy in our fans. Draymond, he’s doing everything he can to influence the win and maybe that’s what was needed tonight.”
The Warriors entered Tuesday’s game having lost three straight, including a loss to the same Timberwolves team on Sunday night. So Golden State knew it had to start well in the rematch against Minnesota.
“We were really excited about the game, just because they beat us,” Kevon Looney told reporters. “It’s an in-season championship game, so there’s more at stake. I think the scrimmage was just kind of setting the tone. We already knew we were going to go out there and compete hard and we wanted to strike first and then the scrimmage got the crowd going, got everyone going, and we were going to strike.” Firstly, we wanted to play hard for our players who were sent off, and I think that continued.”
Looney shared Kerr’s sentiments about how the officials handled discipline, believing Thompson should have stayed in the game while Gobert deserved some sort of punishment for his role in the whole thing.
“I was bummed it happened this early in the game,” Looney said. “I didn’t think Klay should have been ejected. Someone tried to attack him. And I was surprised that Gobert walked away with nothing after grabbing Klay first and Draymond just to protect his teammate. So it was a little shocking, but it was.” “That’s what it is and the referees have to make the tough decisions. It’s bad that these two players aren’t there for the rest of the game, but we had to do what we had to do.”
With Curry out, Chris Paul returned to the starting lineup alongside Thompson, Green, Andrew Wiggins and Saric.
Paul became the undisputed leader on the floor once Thompson and Green were ejected, and he could feel the atmosphere in the building changing after the scrimmage.
“We still have a game to play,” Paul told reporters. “When those things happen, it usually creates a lot of energy in the building. It definitely got everyone into the game a little bit more.”
“It was good to see that energy and that fire. Unfortunately, there were two ejaculations.”
The Warriors have a day to cool down before hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. It remains to be seen whether or not they will have Curry and Green in the lineup.
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