Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson makes history against Bulls: The ball felt 'like it was going in every time'

Klay Thompson makes history against Bulls: The ball felt 'like it was going in every time'

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.”

Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid

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USA TODAY

Finding motivation key for Warriors in three-peat bid

At first glance, everything looks rosy for the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in their bid to become one of the league’s all-time great dynasties. All the key players are back from their title teams, and Steph Curry is off to one of the best starts of his pro career.

Curry set another NBA record on Sunday by making seven three pointers in the Warriors’ win at Brooklyn. That made it seven straight games with at least five made three pointers, breaking the old record set by George McCloud during the 1995-96 season.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant seems to be enjoying all the media attention over his upcoming free agency. Durant poured in 41 points at Madison Square Garden last Friday after patiently answering questions from New York area reporters at the morning shootaround about his possible interest in joining the Knicks.

Draymond Green continues to be a defensive stopper and stat stuffer, dishing out a season-high 13 assists in the win at Brooklyn. But after that, there are a few concerns for Steve Kerr and his coaching staff.

All-Star guard Klay Thompson is off to a slow start while also dealing with questions about his upcoming free agency. Thompson is just 5-36 from the three-point line this season and hasn’t had a 20 point game yet during the Warriors’ 6-1 start. Thompson will come out of his early slump very soon, hopefully not on Monday against the Bulls.

No one’s really sure when free agent addition DeMarcus Cousins will make his debut after Achilles’ tendon surgery last season, and Cousins had to apologize to Kerr after getting thrown out of the game in New York last Friday for arguing with a referee while wearing street clothes.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of fit the temperamental Cousins will turn out to be with such a professional group like the Warriors. Is there a chance “Boogie” could disrupt the air-tight chemistry Kerr has built in the Bay Area?

A bigger short term concern for Kerr will be getting better production from his bench. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have missed games because of injuries, and both are past their primes. Free agent big man Jonas Jerebko looks like a nice addition, but Golden State could use another athletic wing player in the mold of the departed Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark. Actually, more consistent scoring from any bench player would be welcome.

Jordan Bell, Damian Jones and Kevon Looney will provide rebounding and hustle plays, but only Bell figures to remain in the rotation when Cousins is ready to play again.

Granted, every one of the other 29 teams would love to deal with the minor concerns that Kerr and the Warriors are facing right now. But ask any player who has been a part of three straight NBA championship teams, and he’ll tell you the biggest challenge is finding the motivation to keep striving for excellence during the regular season portion of trying for title No. 3.

Kerr is uniquely qualified to lead this group and you can bet he’ll draw on his experience from playing on that second Bulls’ three-peat team to have the Warriors running at peak efficiency when the playoffs begin next April. Even fighting boredom during the regular season, Golden State shouldn’t have much trouble finishing with the top seed in the West and the NBA’s best overall record.

The Bulls will have one advantage tomorrow night. Golden State could be a little tired playing its third road game in four nights, but the Warriors have such a huge talent advantage that it probably won’t make much difference. With that in mind, here are three ways to try to keep the game close.

1. DEFEND THE THREE-POINT LINE: The Bulls did a much better job in this area during Saturday’s win in Atlanta, and it will be a point of emphasis from the coaching staff throughout the season. Problem is, Golden State has three of the best shooters in NBA history and Curry is in the middle of one of the hottest streaks of his career.

2. ATTACK THE BASKET: Durant has improved tremendously as an interior defender since joining the Warriors, but none of the three players Golden State will use at center have great positional size. Zach LaVine needs to challenge the Warriors’ defense by getting into the paint to draw fouls and set up his teammates for open looks. Who knows, maybe Cam Payne will make seven three-pointers again!

3. POINTS FOR PARKER: Jabari Parker continues to look more comfortable in his role as the facilitator for the Bulls’ reserve group, and he’s also part of the closing fourth quarter unit playing with LaVine. Parker will be guarded at times by Iguodala, and it will be interesting to see if Jabari can get the better of this matchup between two former Illinois high school stars.

Tune in to NBC Sports Chicago Monday night at 6:30 for Bulls Pregame Live from the United Center Atrium. Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Kelly Crull join me to take you through all the main storylines, and after the game goes final, flip back to NBC Sports Chicago for reaction from both teams on Bulls Postgame Live, followed by Bulls Outsiders. Our pre and post game coverage is also available on the new My Teams by NBC Sports app.

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Observations from Bulls' blowout loss to Warriors: Curry, Bell, records and a road-weary Markkanen

Don’t tug on Curry’s cape: There’s an old saying in the NBA: “Send a limo for (insert player here) to the game tonight. I want to make sure he arrives safely.”

Translation: I’m gonna light him up tonight.

That’s what two-time MVP Stephen Curry did to Kris Dunn in the second quarter Friday, when a slim lead turned into a huge, expected deficit for the Bulls. Curry scored 26 of his game-high 33 points in the quarter, complete with heat checks and celebratory struts that have become commonplace with Curry’s performances.

Whether it was backdoor layups or 30-footers, Curry made Oracle Arena his playground—and Dunn his victim in what could best be described as an old-school baptism Dunn isn’t sure to forget.

Dunn likely set off Curry’s ire with Curry drawing two quick fouls in the first quarter and some aggressive physical defense that is traditionally the book on Curry, if there is such a book.

But when Curry returned in the second quarter, he took advantage of the ultimate green light as All-Star teammates Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were out. He performed his theatrics with relative ease, hitting four of 11 triples and shooting 10 of 18 overall in just 27 minutes of work.

It wasn’t just Curry, as Klay Thompson was even more efficient, scoring 29 on 12 of 17 shootng and hitting five of his nine triples. Nick Young was seven of 12 in 19 minutes for 17 points as the Warriors shot 58 percent and committed just 11 turnovers.

Curry, who can give them away at times, only had two turnovers and it helped lead to an easy win.

“You try to make it a little more difficult,” Dunn said. “He’s a phenomenal shooter, everybody knows that. Once he gets on a roll like that it’s hard but you’ve just got to make it difficult for him.”

Had it been necessary, Curry could’ve gone for a 60-point performance, having 31 at the half. Dunn, enduring a night he won’t sure forget, scored six points with four assists on two of 11 shooting in 25 minutes.

“The turnovers, the lack of awareness,” Hoiberg said. “It is hopefully something he’ll grow from and learn from and find a way to fight through when he’s not playing well. Absolutely. You learn form the good things, learn from the bad things. There’s plenty of bad we can learn from tonight.”

The great ones go through baptisms, especially the point guards considering they’re on an island in this talent-rich stretch of the NBA. Dunn has a chance to be special on defense as he progresses through the years, but if Friday was any lesson, being able to give it back is probably the best remedy—because just taking his medicine can’t feel good.

The Bell rung

Whether it was a bored championship team finding an easy way to motivate itself or wanting to troll the Bulls for sport, the Warriors found an easy storyline to exploit in the insertion of rookie Jordan Bell.

It’s easy to remember the Bulls drafted Bell in the second round for the Warriors in exchange for $3.5 million to go into the Bulls coffers the night they decided to go with a full-scale rebuild.

Bell was rewarded with a start after inconsistent playing time in the absence of Green and made his presence felt from the moment his name was called in the introductions, with a “money sign” as a way to remind the team that drafted him of what it was missing.

"I just wanted to see how cash considerations was playing over there,” he said after the game.

He then proceeded to give the Bulls nightmares all over the floor with his athleticism and shot-blocking, swatting away six shots—including a chasedown block of Denzel Valentine everyone in Oracle Arena could see coming from the moment Valentine started his ground-bound trot downcourt.

It was likely something he’d been envisioning since Warriors coach Steve Kerr told Bell he would be starting two days ago.

“At first I was thinking of things to troll the other team but as I got closer to the game, I was like let me focus on the game,” Bell said. “Then when I saw we won the game, I started trolling a little bit.”

Before the trolling, there was the teasing in the form of production. The eye-popping alley-oop from Zaza Pachulia and even the wild play of fouling Justin Holiday on a corner jumper that almost looked violent.

He was clearly pumped for the opportunity to play against a team that didn’t give him a second thought and his veteran teammates took every opportunity to press his buttons.

“I remember Klay said something, like they don’t want you JB,” he said. “Everybody kept reminding me of it today.”

And it will be a topic of conversation for the immediate future, especially as the Bulls are in the search for young, athletic talent they can build around.

One for the books

The 49-point drubbing was third-worst in franchise history and the Bulls are now the owners of the NBA’s worst record at 3-14, along with having the worst point differential at -12.9 points per game.

The second and third quarters were embarrassing, as the Warriors outscored the Bulls 81-34 in easy fashion. Usually in those occurrences, Hoiberg will make an opening statement to the media about the effort lacking before taking questions.

Friday was no different.

“From Day 1, going back into September, the biggest thing we talked about as a team was fighting through the tough times, handling adversity. Well…we went out and had a great start. Actually had a lead after the first quarter. They go on a run and we’ve seen this before, we put our heads down, we don’t’ fight through it, we start separating and lose trust in each other. That can’t continue to happen. We gotta find a way to battle through the tough times. Quit putting our heads down, find a way to toughen up and stay in the game.”

Hoiberg was asked what kind of effect this can have on a team if these type of beatdowns continue and he didn’t mince words—a shift of sorts from his usual straight-faced demeanor.

“Tonight, they got it going, we didn’t handle it well,” he said. “We stopped getting back. They were getting whatever they wanted. You’ve got to find a way to fight through that. If we don’t learn that soon, we’re going to keep getting our asses kicked.”

Robin Lopez said it’s a collective issue and one that needs to be fixed. Perhaps in a clear moment of self-awareness, Dunn said he can see when the Bulls stop competing.

“You can definitely see it. I think it’s the youth,” Dunn said. “We’re not used to that. In the NBA, people can put up points very quickly. It comes with the territory.”

He’s still a rookie, folks

Lauri Markkanen showed some signs of the west-coast swing getting to him in the fatigue department, struggling in his third straight game Friday.

The Bulls have made it a priority to get Markkanen better shots and cleaner opportunities but they were in short order as he was four of 16 from the field in 27 minutes.

There wasn’t much quality to go around anyways as the Bulls shot 35 percent and fell behind by as many as 49. After scoring 26 with 13 rebounds against Phoenix last Sunday, he’s averaged 10 points on nine of 42 shooting (21 percent).

“Today they didn’t fall in the second half—actually, in the first half either,” Markkanen said. “I’ve just got to work more. I’ve had a couple nights now where I don’t make shots. But I did have good looks, though, they just didn’t fall tonight.”