PHOENIX — Warriors guard Klay Thompson was ejected for the first time in his career after picking up two consecutive technical fouls during a chippy third quarter in Golden State’s 134-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.
It was the five-time All-Star’s first career ejection in 759 regular-season and playoff games.
Thompson had been verbally sparring with Phoenix’s Devin Booker for several minutes through the third quarter — repeating over and over again that he had four rings, according to Booker. With 6½ minutes left in the quarter, the two continued to exchange words and then bumped chests, resulting in double technicals on both players.
“There was chirping on both ends, I know that,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I think [the Suns] were very emotional.”
As Thompson started to walk away, Mikal Bridges walked into him. Thompson shoved Bridges away and shortly after was slapped with his second technical, leading to his ejection. Thompson had to be held back by teammate Stephen Curry and Warriors assistant coach Chris DeMarco.
“After he got thrown out, he had a lot more to say, which I love,” Curry said. “The back and forth is a part of [the game] and I like that he’s engaged in that respect because it matters to him.”
A total of seven technical fouls were assessed in the third quarter 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 also were whistled for technicals for various outbursts, with most of that ire directed at the officials. Those seven technicals tied the most in a single quarter over the past 25 seasons, according to Elias.
“I think both teams want it; I don’t think it’s personal at all. I think we just respect them; they’re the champions,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “So, they’re going to get our best because they are 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 stuff happens, we got to get back on focusing being competitive and trying to win the game.”
As Thompson left the court, he continued to yell at the Suns’ bench, waving at them while pointing to his hand, reiterating the same message he was chirping in Booker’s ear.
“We’re just two competitors,” Booker said. “I love Klay Thompson. I have for a really long time. But it’s not going to excuse from us being competitive and talking to each other. I’ve always admired his game, how he plays on both ends of the ball. And obviously, the rings speak for themselves.”
Describing the trash talk between the two, Booker summarized: “They have four rings, repeated over and over, and they do, and they did.”
Thompson didn’t speak with the media following the game.
With Booker as the primary defender, Thompson shot 0-for-4, including 0-for-3 from 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 with 34 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 3 3-pointers. He also made 11 of 14 free throws. Booker has scored 130 points through his first four games — the most through four games of a season in Suns history.
“He and Book have gotten into it a little bit over the years, they’re just competitors, both great players — I remember four or five years ago when Book was first coming up, Klay was in his prime, he went at it one night in Oracle and same type of thing happened,” Kerr said. “There were no ejections, but they’re both competitive, they’re guarding each other, and this is the NBA. Highest competition in the world, stuff like that happens.”
Kerr said Thompson has been frustrated playing under his current minutes restriction as he returns to his full conditioning. At shootaround earlier in the day, Thompson said he wasn’t expecting to need to exercise the same kind of patience as he did 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 badly and he’s trying to force it right now. He’s trying too hard. But he’s done that many times, even before the injuries. So I’ll remind him: There are 78 games to go.”
In the midst of the chaos in the third, the Suns were playing well, and their lead grew to 19 points by quarter’s end. Without Thompson, the defending NBA champs were never able to mount a rally, and the Suns kept a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
“We’ve got to remember that [as] defending champs, there’s a different glow when you walk in,” Curry said. “Teams are trying to come at you, especially on the road, get their crowd into it. Their emotions are running high and they fed off of it … they had a bit of an edge after that moment that they capitalized on.”
In the moments following Thompson’s ejection, the Suns outscored the Warriors 22-9. But Kerr doesn’t believe that’s when the game was lost. Instead, it was at the free throw line, where Phoenix attempted 34 (and made 28) to Golden State’s 17 attempts (with 13 makes).
“We lost our way,” Kerr said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not a finished product, by any means … we’re nowhere close to where we need to be right now. We’re a very poor defensive team and that doesn’t win in this league.”
The Warriors’ defensive woes start with their transition defense, Kerr said. As they got that issue cleaned up, they began fouling, which Kerr attributed to them being late on rotations. The Warriors allowed the Suns to score 72 points in the first half — the third game they’ve given up at least 70 points in a half this season.
“The commitment to defense isn’t there,” Green said. “That’s something we have to be better at, and it starts with me. And I’ll make sure we get there. But right now, we are a decent offensive team and a bad defensive team. I don’t expect that to be the case. It’s something we can change; we’ve just got to commit to it.”
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.