CLEVELAND –- Klay Thompson was seething as he limped off the court in the first quarter, still livid when he returned in the second quarter and barely keeping a lid on his rage 50 minutes after Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Warriors guard sustained a contusion to his left thigh, in what he thought was the result of a cheap shot by massive Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov.
“It seemed kind of dirty to me,” Thompson, squinting with anger, said from the podium after a 120-90 Warriors loss Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
And with that, shots have been fired in a series in which the first three games lacked the competitive intensity typical of an NBA Finals.
Thompson was defending Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving, who drove directly into the paint. Mozgov, standing near the middle of the free throw line, set a pick on which he stuck out his left leg. Upon slamming into Mozgov, Thompson dropped to the floor clutching his left thigh, which banged into Mozgov’s knee.
Thompson is 6-foot-7, 215 pounds. Mozgov is 7-1, 275.
Thompson left the floor with 34 seconds left in the first quarter. He went into the locker room for treatment and came out later, with performance therapist Chelsea Lane continuing to massage the affected area. He returned to the floor with 7:18 left in the second quarter.
“I didn’t get it,” Thompson said. “I don’t know. I’m guarding Kyrie, running full speed downhill . . . I just don’t know who is trying to set a pick on me in the middle of the key. If it’s on the perimeter, I understand. But it didn’t make sense to me.”
Thompson was so bothered by the play that he watched replays, which may have fortified his irritation. Mozgov’s screen was very firm and he also appeared to be moving, which resulted in a foul being whistled by referee Derrick Stafford.
“I’m just confused why he’s trying to set a screen in the middle of the key when we’re both running full speed downhill,” Thompson said. “ . . . He stuck his knee out, too.
“But you know what? That’s basketball.”
That’s what Thompson said. That’s not how he felt. He was sore, physically and emotionally. He was sore because the Warriors lost and because he totaled 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, including 1-of-7 from 3-point distance.
There was plenty of animosity behind the soreness. This incident may have lit a fire under these NBA Finals.