AP Sports

Klay Thompson sent to the bench for the first time since 2012, responds with a season-high 35 points

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Klay Thompson was told Thursday he wouldn’t be starting a game for the first time since he was a Golden State rookie in 2012.

He responded with his best game of the season.

Thompson scored a season-high 35 points, making seven 3-pointers and leading the Warriors to a 140-137 victory over the Utah Jazz.

Thompson was replaced at shooting guard by rookie Brandin Podziemski. Thompson, Stephen Curry’s longtime partner as the starting backcourt, entered the game in the first quarter.

It was the first time the four-time NBA champion came off the bench since March 11, 2012, during the lockout-delayed first season of his career.

“Throughout the game, when I’m running with the second unit, I realized I might be more of a focal point to the offense,” Thompson said. “That’s a fun role to play. I just wanted to take it upon myself to prove to coach (Steve Kerr) that I was going to respond like the champ I am.”

Thompson scored 17 points in 12 minutes in the first half — surpassing 15,000 career points — and the Warriors led 84-71 at halftime. He then scored 18 in the third on 6-for-7 shooting.

Thompson, who missed the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons because of injuries, has struggled at times this season. He is averaging 17 points, the lowest since his second season, and has occasionally not been part of Kerr’s finishing lineup.

Kerr had a discussion with Thompson on Thursday morning when he informed him of the change in the starting lineup. Kerr acknowledged Thompson wasn’t thrilled with the decision.

“It’s been a tricky season for him and for us,” Kerr said. “It’s not as easy to do what Klay did five or six years ago for him. I think this could be a good balance to get the best out of Klay and to get the best out of our team.”

Thompson was on the court in the fourth quarter Wednesday but finished 4 of 14 for 12 points as the Warriors lost at home to the Los Angeles Clippers. They then had to play at Utah in a rescheduled game that was postponed Jan. 17 after Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic had a heart attack at a team dinner in Salt Lake City and died the next day.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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