Fred Hoiberg was asked during Monday morning’s shootaround at the Advocate Center where the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant ranked among the all-time scoring duos in NBA history. Hoiberg’s answer? “Well this is a trio. You’ve got to throw (Klay) Thompson in the mix as well.”
It’s safe to assume no one will be forgetting to include Thompson anymore. The younger of the Splash Brothers took over the United Center on Monday night, setting an NBA record by making 14 3-pointers on his way to 52 points as the Warriors thumped the shorthanded Bulls, 149-125.
It was a night of records for the Warriors, setting franchise records for made 3-pointers (24), made 3-pointers in a half (17 before halftime) and points in a half (92 before halftime). But the night belonged to Thompson, who added another chapter to both his scoring legacy and to the Warriors’ absurd offensive run during their current dynasty.
“I just knew I was due for a big night,” Thompson said after the game.
It was apparent Thompson was in line for the night he felt he was due almost immediately. Though he entered Monday’s tilt against the Bulls mired in one of the worst slumps of his career – he was 5 of 36 (13.9%) from deep in seven games to begin the year – his teammates didn’t seem to notice. After a Kevin Durant midrange jumper got the scoring started Thompson took and made the next four shots he took, extending Golden State’s lead to double digits just 3:20 into the contest.
Thompson missed his next 3-point attempt out of a timeout but came back and made his next four 3-point attempts in a 2-minute span, giving him 22 points in the quarter on 8 of 9 shooting; his season-high entering the game had been 19 points, and the six 3-pointers he made in the first stanza topped his season total.
The Warriors had pushed their lead to 24 early in the second when Thompson subbed back in, and he needed all of 18 seconds to connect on his next shot, a 3-pointer that pushed Golden State’s lead to 61-34. Thompson made two more triples on feeds from Draymond Green midway through the period, and Steve Kerr drew up Thompson’s 10th triple out of a timeout that pushed Golden State over the 80-point mark with 2:50 left in the half. That triple tied Thompson with Chandler Parsons for the most 3-pointers in a half. He added two free throws for good measure before missing what would have been his 11th triple right before halftime.
As the Warriors entered the locker room with a 42-point lead, the largest halftime road lead in NBA history, they had one goal in mind: Get Thompson the record.
Steph Curry, who had 23 points on 7 of 9 shooting in the first half himself, told Thompson to “go get it,” the record that he held until tonight.
Added Kevin Durant: “Everybody was encouraging him to keep shooting.”
With that in mind, and the Warriors leading by 42 against a defenseless Bulls team, they set out to complete the mission. Thompson made a fadeaway midrange jumper to open the third quarter, then made his 11th triple right after Kevin Durant made his first of the evening. Thompson began to shot-hunt, taking and missing shots on the Warriors’ next two possessions. But then he hit his 12th triple from the top of the key, causing Fred Hoiberg to call timeout. That’s when head coach Steve Kerr really began understanding what was at stake.
“I didn’t even realize what was happening record-wise,” Kerr said. “I heard Klay say ‘two more, two more.’ And that’s when I realized. And I didn’t even know who had the record so I asked Steph. I said, ‘Do you have record?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ I’m a little slow on the uptake of this stuff.”
Thompson missed his first triple out of the timeout but connected on his second, giving him 13 for the game to tie Curry’s record set two years ago.
That’s when Thompson said he really began thinking about breaking the record. It likely helped that the Warriors were up 45 points and there was still 20 minutes to go.
“I just wanted it so bad at that point,” he said. “I’ve been in this position before, I’ve had 10 or 11 threes. But never close to 14, so I’m just thankful I was in this position.”
But overthinking it may hurt him in the short-term. He went on a smidgen of a cold streak, missing four consecutive 3-pointers with a made floater sprinkled in to give him 49 points. The United Center began to stir and eventually began rooting for history, groaning with each miss. The Warriors admitted to shot-hunting for Thompson, who took 12 straight shots for the Warriors before he finally connected on the record-breaking shot on the right wing off a pass from Durant.
Thompson stayed in after Hoiberg called timeout again but subbed out less than a minute later, finishing with 52 points on 18 of 29 shooting and 14 of 24 3-pointers in just 26 minutes; he’s the first player in NBA history to score 50 points while playing 28 or fewer minutes.
“It’s one of the best feelings in basketball,” he said, “when you touch the ball and feel like it’s going in every time.”
As if the Warriors needed a reminder of just how spoiled they are, tonight was it. Thompson was mired in the worst slump of the dynasty years, and yet the Warriors were still 6-1. Curry was the Western Conference Player of the Week, scoring 51 points with 11 3-pointers against the Wizards. Durant had scored 41 against the Knicks in New York, including 25 in the final quarter. And on a night when Durant, the greatest scorer in the game, scored 14 points, the Warriors still tallied 149 in a blowout win.
Thompson’s historic shooting led them on this night, adding another chapter to what’s been a remarkable ride for Kerr and the defending champs.
“It feels like Year 5 of coaching the Golden State Warriors. This is what it’s been like. I can’t even tell you how lucky I am and how I feel every night just watching these guys and how unselfish they are, they basically take turns and encourage each other, they want each other to do well.
We have all this talent, but the key is these guys are committed to each other and they play hard for each other and they want each other to have success. That’s why it works.”