Warriors

Rewind: Klay drops 60, finds a zone most never experience

Rewind: Klay drops 60, finds a zone most never experience

OAKLAND – The shots kept falling, splashing through the net from all over the court, jumpers from 20 feet, from 25, from 30, layups from one side of the bucket, then the other. Klay Thompson was tap-dancing all over the Indiana Pacers.

It didn’t seem logical that a self-respecting NBA team like the Pacers would allow one man to put on a personal showcase, with them as the victims.

That’s precisely what Thompson did Monday night, before the 200th consecutive sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, pouring in 60 points – more than he has ever scored in a game, more than anyone in the NBA his scored this season – in a 142-106 crushing of Indiana.

“Klay did do a good job of moving without the ball,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “Tonight, he was moving and they were finding him.

“We needed to get more help, and we didn’t. He lit us up.”

In scoring 60 points in only 29 minutes – he exited with 1:22 left in the third quarter and did not return – Thompson found a zone above even the most ethereal zones. He happened upon a place even the most hallowed most NBA players never get the privilege of experiencing.

“That’s a feat I would put money on to probably never be touched ever again in the history of basketball,” said Stephen Curry, the reigning scoring champion as well as back-to-back MVP.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Kevin Durant, the four-time scoring champ who also has an MVP trophy to his name. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

With Thompson raining shots, his teammates standing and clapping and boogieing to the roar of the crowd, the Pacers were helpless witnesses to their own dismantling. As Thompson sizzled, and their defense fizzled, one thing became clear: There would be no double-teaming of the hottest shooter in the NBA this season.

How do you double-team Thompson, who plays mostly without the ball, when he’s sharing the court with Curry and Durant? You don’t. You take your chances and hope. And if Thompson is stroking it, you’re in trouble.

The Pacers tried numerous defenders on Thompson and none was up to the challenge. The Warriors, smelling the Pacers’ futility, went after them with a vengeance.

“You could see that once he got hot, Steph was looking for him and Draymond (Green) and KD and Andre (Iguodala) and Zaza (Pachulia), they were all looking for him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

“I’ve said this before, but I really believe the strength of our team the last few years offensive is the number of guys that can pass and make plays. What’s really gratifying as a coach is when you see that type of unselfishness.”

By the time Indiana’s superstar, Paul George, took the assignment, trying to cool Thompson, it was well into the third quarter, much too late. Thompson had made 21 of his 33 shots, including eight of his 14 launches from beyond the arc. He had become the first player in the shot-clock era (beginning in 1954-55) to score 60 points in fewer than 30 minutes.

He had hung the Pacers on a wall.

“I will celebrate this tonight,” said Thompson, whose previous career-high was 52 points. “It’s a feat I never really thought I would be able to do growing up.”

Asked if could have scored 80 points, Thompson barely skipped a beat.

“Maybe. I think I could have,” he said. “And maybe one day I will have the opportunity. 60 points in 29 minutes is not bad. I’m satisfied with that.”

His teammates were beyond satisfied. They were delighted. Enchanted. Durant scored 20 points and was agape at Thompson’s performance. Curry had 13 points, 11 assists and zero turnovers and was unusually demonstrative in recapping Thompson’s night.

“We just kept feeding him and feeding him, and he was knocking down some unbelievable shots,” Durant said.

“It was just so much fun to watch,” Curry said. “We appreciate that entertainment value as his teammates to see what he was able to do tonight. It was crazy.”

This was Thompson, taking full and extravagant advantage of both his own shooting skill as well as the benefit of teammates too lethal for any defense to ignore.

All of which left the other 29 teams around the NBA watching and wondering where on earth do they turn if any Thompson or Curry or Durant enters a zone.

This is quite the quandary, and it’s precisely what the Warriors had in mind when they hired Durant.

Jonas Jerebko's importance to Warriors explained with one statistic

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AP

Jonas Jerebko's importance to Warriors explained with one statistic

Editor’s note: Grant Liffmann and Drew Shiller are the co-hosts of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 90 minutes before each home game and 60 minutes after every game. Each week, they will drop their Outside Observations on the state of the Dubs, and this time, it’s Grant’s turn.

Jonas Jerebko has been a valuable weapon off the Warriors’ bench this season -- and more than you probably realize.

The team greatly benefits from the 6-foot-10 forward’s ability to stretch the floor, his vastly underrated tenacity when rebounding, his desire to make the right, efficient pass, and his overall energy and toughness on the court. But to simplify Jerebko's contribution is to examine how the Warriors fare in relation to his scoring totals.

When Jerebko scores 10-plus points in a game, the Warriors are 9-1. The one loss they endured came in the Nov. 29 game in Toronto, when Jerebko helped Kevin Durant lead a valiant comeback that eventually ended in an overtime defeat. When Jerebko scores five points or fewer in a game, the Warriors are 5-7.

It has been well-chronicled that the Warriors’ bench lacks a clear scoring role player, so it helps when Jerebko steps up and hits shots.

Having Jerebko open lanes for the Warriors' stars also is crucial to the team's success. The Warriors are 10-1 when Jerebko makes two or more 3-pointers in a game, and Jerebko is +116 in point differential when on the court in those games.

Last season, the Warriors were desperate for shooting from deep off their bench, turning to the likes of Nick Young and Omri Casspi, but the duo never found consistency, and the team suffered from a lack of spacing in the second unit. Jerebko has shored up those issues so far this season, and the Warriors' record reflects it.

'Zo cleaning the glass

Alfonzo McKinnie also is making his presence felt, especially on the glass. When McKinnie pulls down two or more offensive rebounds in a game, the Warriors are 7-1.

Kevon Looney is the Warriors’ best offensive rebounder, but McKinnie also has proven to be valuable contributor in that category. He has a nose for the ball, and doesn’t let a play die once a shot goes up.

McKinnie plays like a guy who’s fighting for playing time every time he steps on the court, and that has helped him become a key member of the bench.

Klay’s 3-point success tied to team success

Many times, it feels like the Warriors really hit their stride when Klay Thompson is firing and hitting from deep, and the numbers support that. When Klay shoots 40 percent or better in a game, the Warriors are 11-1.

That’s no coincidence.

Klay has been uncharacteristically inconsistent from long range this season, leading him to take more contested mid-range shots. When Steph Curry is out, opponents focus on limiting Klay from shooting 3-pointers. But when Curry is playing, of course, the defense shifts the focus to stopping him, leaving Klay with the ability to sink daggers from deep.

If he makes them, the Warriors usually win. Simple as that.

Follow Grant on Twitter @GrantLiffmann for his observations throughout the Warriors’ season

David West explains how Steph Curry is the 'head honcho' of Warriors

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USATSI

David West explains how Steph Curry is the 'head honcho' of Warriors

Programming note: Watch tonight's Warriors-Kings game streaming live at 7 p.m. PT on the MyTeams app.

Who is the unquestioned leader of the Warriors? Is it Steph Curry or Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or Steve Kerr? 

"These guys lead by committee," David West explained on 95.7 The Game. "It's always been a group effort. There's never been one guy ... there was no singular leader. I don't think you can have a singular leader in terms of a basketball team. You got guys who lead in different ways. 

"They're not any different in terms of how other teams work."

[RELATEDDavid West believes Kevin Durant will play for Warriors next season]

But don't get it twisted. West made it very clear who the Warriors look to for guidance and leadership and perspective.

"Steph is still the head honcho in terms of the direction of the group, and the group goes as he goes," the two-time NBA champion said. "And he knows to manage that group in that locker room.

"People don't realize, when he gets hurt and he's not in the lineup, it changes everything. When he's in the lineup and he's in the locker room healthy, he knows how to manage. Now he's not somebody that's gonna be demonstrative and be blowing up and cussing people out.

"But he's gonna be making sure he's communicating with everybody and he's gonna get the team motivated to play and be ready to go."

The Warriors didn't seem too motivated and weren't ready to go on Wednesday night vs the Raptors, so is West calling out Curry? (that's clearly a joke, people)

Curry had his worst game of the season vs Toronto -- 10 points (3-for-12 FG), 3 assists and 4 turnovers -- and hasn't fared too well against the Kings in his career:
-20.8 points per game (tied for 4th fewest vs any team)
-45.4 percent from the field (5th worst vs any team)

But knowing him, he will bounce back and score 67 points tonight...

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller