San Francisco Chronicle

Thompson hits a key milestone in loss on road

- By C.J. Holmes C.J. Holmes covers the Warriors for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: cj.holmes@sfchronicl­ Twitter: @CjHolmes22

Klay Thompson did something Tuesday night he hadn’t done in nearly four years.

He played in the second game of a back-to-back set.

Golden State lost 134-124 to the Los Angeles Clippers at Arena, but the presence of Thompson on the floor on consecutiv­e nights could foreshadow good news for the Warriors.

The last time Thompson took the court for a back-toback was April 4-5, 2019. After scoring 27 points in Monday’s win over Washington, Thompson collected 18 on 7-for-14 shooting — including four 3-pointers — in 28 minutes against the Clippers.

The Warriors are 5-7 without Thompson this season.

“I mean, were down a really good player (when Klay has to sit out), especially in back-to-backs,” guard Jordan Poole said. “Everyone knows how special Klay is. We’d love to have him out there for all of our games. But whenever he doesn’t play in those back-to-backs, obviously we know it’s more for health purposes than anything else. We’d rather have him healthy when we make our run later in the season.”

Thompson scored just five points in the first half Tuesday after scoring 20 in the first 24 minutes Monday. Perhaps his modest offensive performanc­e — at least in terms of attempts — was a sign of tired legs, given how long it’s been since he made consecutiv­e appearance­s.

Thompson said before the game he saw Tuesday as a milestone in his journey to return to All-Star form. And doing it in Los Angeles made the night even sweeter.

“I felt great,” Thompson said. “I mean, I was a little gassed in the beginning. But once I got the wheels moving, I felt really good. I’m just really excited to play in back-to-backs from here on out.”

Golden State’s medical staff had chosen to err on the side of caution with Thompson’s usage as it kept tabs on the Achilles injury that forced him to miss the 2020-21 season.

The 33-year-old has voiced his frustratio­n with the arrangemen­t all season long, even though he claimed to have a “mental block” that kept him out of the Warriors’ first four preseason games.

There have been times this season when Thompson looked like his usual, sharp-shooting self. He has scored 40 points or more three times and went for 54 in an overtime win over Atlanta on Jan. 2. He went 12for-16 from 3-point range against Oklahoma City on Feb. 6, finishing with 42 points.

Thompson enters the All-Star break averaging 21.4 points while shooting 42.1% from the field and 39.8% from 3-point range. Head coach Steve Kerr believes he’s getting stronger by the game.

“He’s been great,” Kerr said. “He’s playing at a really high level and I think his defense has gotten better — it’s not just the shooting — I think he’s defending well in general. He’s taking better shots. He’s being a little more patient. But he’s just been very consistent for us and it’s fun to watch him.”

Kerr had indicated in recent weeks that Thompson was getting closer to playing in back-to-back games. Rick Celebrini, the Warriors’ director of sports medicine and performanc­e, finally communicat­ed to Kerr that Thompson was ready. And the upcoming All-Star break certainly helped

Thompson — and his teammates — will have plenty of time to recover. The Warriors don’t play again until Feb. 23 in L.A. against the Lakers.

“Just getting the first one out the way is a huge accomplish­ment,” Thompson said. “Now it’s going to be back to normal, playing ball, and I’m excited for what’s next after a nice, well-earned break.”

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