Klay Thompson proves he hasn’t sacrificed a thing with his incredible 60-point performance
When the euphoria subsided in the Bay Area and the shock around the rest of the NBA faded away, a question had to be asked:
Now that the Warriors had Kevin Durant, how were they going to use Klay Thompson?
There is only one ball, after all, and while the Warriors share it as well as any team in the NBA, it was fair to wonder what Durant's signing meant for the Warriors' other dead-eye, spot-up shooter.
Thompson, at least outwardly, didn't seem at all concerned. Before the season, he told The Vertical:
We all want to see each other do well. But I’m not sacrificing s—, because my game isn’t changing.
Few bought what Thompson was selling at the time.
But Monday night proved it — Thompson hasn't sacrificed a thing this season.
Thompson scored 60 points in 29 minutes Monday night in one of the most incredible individual offensive games in NBA history. No one has ever scored 60 points faster.
Thompson started the game hot and didn't stop getting points until Steve Kerr, being both merciful and a buzzkill, pulled him late in the third quarter.
How many could Thompson have scored if he played all four? 75? 83?
Thompson opened the game with an 8-of-12 first quarter (with only one 3-pointer), starting the game with 17 points.
In the second quarter, Thompson found himself taking his hot shooting behind the arc, making 4-of-7 3-pointers en route to a 23-point frame.
At halftime, Thompson had 40.
• Video via NBA.com •
In the third quarter, he made 6-of-10 shots — three from behind the arc — to reach 60 points in the game.
Thompson can catch fire at any moment in a contest — you remember Game 6 of last year's Western Conference Finals — but Monday night's performance was a long, sustained burn, reminiscent of Thompson's incredible, record-setting 37-point quarter in January of 2015, but more than twice as long.
Because the game was a blowout, the Warriors decided to feed Thompson on almost every possession — the game became a series of Klay heat checks, with each shot seemingly increasing in difficulty but falling nonetheless.
It was Thompson at his incendiary finest.
It was always a ridiculous notion to think that Thompson would have to sacrifice shots because of the introduction of Durant into the Warriors offense — that's not how the Warriors offense works.
The ball moves around with the Warriors, and isolation is a rarity outside of late-in-the-shot-clock situations (which usually fall to Thompson). If anything, Thompson should thrive with one more elite shooter on the court — they'd pull the defense off of him.
We saw that Monday.
But a slow start shooting justified the unfounded notion that Thompson was the odd-man out in Golden State, and baseless trade rumors began to float around.
Do you think the Celtics could still get Thompson in exchange for Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and a draft pick? They should pull the trigger on that deal…
Thompson was always going to progress to the mean after that slump to start the season — he's too good of a shooter to miss open shots all season.
But that mean — it might be higher than we think.
It was going to take a little bit of time for Durant to assimilate to the Warriors' offense, but it's clear he's in the flow now, and the shots are only going to become more and more open for Thompson.
In the Warriors' NBA championship season, 14 percent of Thompson's shots were “wide open”, meaning that a defender was six or more feet away from him.
Last year, that number was 16.5 percent — a really high mark.
This year, nearly a quarter of all of Thompson's shots are wide open. Half of his shots are taken with a defender four or more feet away.
Why on earth would a defense leave Thompson open? Well, they have to choose between him or Durant, or him and Curry. You can't double-team them all.
Kerr demands that the ball needs to find the open man in the Warriors' offense, and Monday night, that open man was Thompson.
Thompson made 21 shots Monday — 20 were assisted, which is the best number this millennium.
This is not a one-time deal. Thompson might not catch fire like this again, and he probably won't drop 60 in three quarters, but one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA is going to keep getting wide open shots.
All because he's the third option.
So much for sacrificing.