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NBA Finals 2019: Warriors’ Klay Thompson wants to play through pain in Game 3, but knows risk might be too great

OAKLAND, Calif. — Once again the fate of the Golden State Warriors will be partly determined not by one of their superstar players or their three-time NBA champion head coach, but rather the sports medicine and performance staff, who have been tasked with making difficult calls with heavy implications throughout the 2019 postseason.

First it was DeMarcus Cousins, then Kevin Durant, then Andre Iguodala … and now Klay Thompson’s status for Wednesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors rests on the shoulders of head sports medicine honcho Rick Celebrini and his staff. Thompson suffered a left hamstring injury which forced him out of the Warriors’ 109-104 Game 2 victory, and his health was among the key topics during the team’s media availability on Tuesday.

While Durant has already been ruled out for Game 3 and Kevon Looney will miss rest of the series, Thompson’s injury is much more of a gray area. Thompson was active during practice and getting up shots — not just stationary but on the move as well — and said that the hamstring felt much better than it did a couple of days ago.

“Oh, it’s much better than it was Sunday night,” Thompson said on Tuesday. “So hopefully the same progress will be made and I’ll be moving like my normal self tomorrow. But the pain level wasn’t too crazy at all.”

Thompson made plenty of comments to indicate that he thinks he’ll be able to suit up (“For me personally, it would be hard to see me not playing” … “I don’t think this one is of greatest concern”), but he was sure to let everyone know that the ultimate decision is not up to him.

“Obviously I would do anything I can to be out there, but it’s all in their hands,” Thompson said of the training staff. “If there’s any pain, it will be a no-go just because of the position we’re in. This could be a longer series, so there’s no point in trying to go out there and re-aggravate it and potentially keep myself out of the whole entire Finals instead of just one game.”

The use of the phrase “any pain” suggests we should perhaps take Thompson’s injury a little more seriously than he’s letting on, but he clarified his comments later, saying that a slight bit of pain is fine, as long as it’s not consistent throughout the game.

“Probably, if you only feel it on a certain couple moves, you’re fine,” Thompson said. “But if you feel it every step of the way, that’s not a good sign. I do not feel it with every move I make, only on certain ones. So you can kind of play through that. But if it was something that was consistent whenever I move my leg or every sharp cut or every sprint, that would not be good. But it’s only a few exact movements that I really feel it. So that’s very encouraging.”

Thompson surprised a lot of people by recovering from a high ankle sprain in Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals — he not only finished the game, but also played in Game 2. Draymond Green said he had the same injury in high school, and was thoroughly impressed with Thompson for playing through it. Thompson’s track record speaks for itself and the Warriors desperately need him on both ends of the floor, but this time it sounds like it won’t be his decision as to whether he’ll play through the pain in Game 3.

“Klay is always going to say he’s ready to go,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said on Tuesday. “What we’ll have to determine is, is that a risk? If he plays, are we risking anything? If the training staff feels good about his ability to go out there and play without making things worse, then he’ll play. But if there’s a risk, we would rather give him the next couple of days to continue to heal and hopefully have him out there for Game 4.”

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