For the second time this season, a lacklustre performance has led to a late-game benching for Golden State Warriors' guard Klay Thompson.
Thompson had a season-worst three points on 1-of-11 shooting against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, leading to his exclusion from a closing lineup that featured Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Can Klay Thompson respond for the Golden State Warriors in a manner matching his initial late-game benching?
The five-time All-Star was benched late in a seven-point, 2-of-10 shooting performance against the Phoenix Suns on December 12, acknowledging his frustration at Steve Kerr's decision in the game's aftermath.
To Thompson's credit, he fought back splendidly over the following six games. He began with his first 30-point performance of the season against the LA Clippers, then had 24, 28, 24, 20 and 28-point outings as the Warriors won five-straight games.
However, Thompson's benching against the Mavericks was a culmination of three horrid games in a row. The 33-year-old had nine points on 3-of-12 shooting on Christmas Day against the Denver Nuggets, then was a -26 in a 13-point display against the Miami Heat.
Thompson's frustration can only be directed at himself -- he deserved to be stapled to the bench late regardless of how much leeway he has stacked in the bank. Golden State's comeback effort may have fallen short, but it's hard to suggest Thompson would have made any difference.
A jarring performance like this only leads to another critical juncture where Thompson's role again comes under question externally. That's especially the case given third-year wing Moses Moody, who could theoretically eat up some of Thompsons minutes, was officially a DNP on Saturday night.
Then you have the fact Paul had a season-high six threes and 24 points, while Brandin Podziemski had 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists despite moving back to the bench. Only two of that duo and Thompson can start, so at what point could the franchise legend be the one who comes off the bench?
Raising that question could be wildly overdramatic given Thompson's recent six-game streak of 20+ points, not to mention the sheer improbability of Steve Kerr even considering such a move. Yet by the same token, scoring three points on 11 shots is glaringly bad, even for Thompson who's struggled for much of the season. A response is needed before the pressure reaches boiling point.