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A Closer Look: Klay Goes For 60
by Brian Witt
While there have already been plenty of options to choose from, perhaps the most amazing thing about the first quarter of the Warriors season has been that, on any given night, they're liable to do something out-of-this-world amazing. Klay Thompson offered further proof of that on Monday night, producing the greatest offensive display the franchise has seen in more than four decades.
As has become the case with Thompson's otherworldly shooting displays, it's not just the volume of points, but also the rapidity and efficiency with which that volume is constructed. We've seen him score 37 points in a quarter. We've seen him go for 41 points and 11 three-pointers in a must-win Game 6. On Monday night, we saw Thompson at perhaps his sharpshooting best, pouring in points at an unconscionable rate.
First, the basics. Thompson scored 60 points on 21-of-33 shooting from the field, 8-of-14 from three-point land and 10-of-11 from the free throw line, all in just 29 minutes of play. In doing so, Thompson became the first player in NBA history to score 60-or-more points in fewer than 30 minutes of playing time. To contextualize just how ridiculous of an accomplishment that is, prior to Thompson's performance on Monday night, the highest scoring total for a player who didn't pass 30 minutes of playing time was his fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry, who scored only 46 points on the final day of the 2015-16 season against Memphis.
In Wilt Chamberlain's historic 100-point game, the Hall-of-Famer averaged 2.08 points per minute. On Monday night, Thompson averaged 2.07.
But Thompson wasn't dominating the ball, searching it out and letting it fly whenever he could get the chance. Instead, his production came entirely in the flow of the offense, as his teammates continually created open looks, which he made sure to capitalize on. In fact, all but one of Thompson's 21 field goals on the night came by way of an assist.
His consistency was remarkable, accounting for 17, 23 and 20 points in each of the first three quarters, respectively. His effectiveness was incredible, as he put together this offensive performance without committing a single turnover, joining Carmelo Anthony as the only players in league history to score at least 60 points in a game while doing so. But nothing jumps off the page more than his efficiency, which was so off-the-charts, it deserves its own special acknowledgement.
As amazing and rare of an accomplishment as scoring 60 points in an NBA game is, consider this: Klay Thompson only touched the ball 52 times for a total of 88.4 seconds on Monday night. All the more impressive, Thompson took a total of 11 dribbles – in the entire game!
All that equates to 1.7 seconds, 1.2 dribbles and 1.154 points per touch on his historic evening. To place that final stat in context, Toronto's Terrence Ross currently leads the NBA with an average of 0.522 points per touch this season. So, on Monday night, Thompson was more than two times more efficient than the most efficient scorer in the league this season, and managed to do so while taking 33 shots, the seventh-most taken by any player in a single game this year.
Of course, the shock and awe was not limited to those of us in the stands or watching from home. Thompson's teammates were equally flabbergasted, unable to resist partaking in the ongoing celebration that resulted from this historic development.
"It makes you feel good when your teammates are so happy for you," said Thompson in his postgame press conference. "It's inspiring to me, inspiring for me to go even further. Like I said before, hopefully this isn't the last time. I'm not satisfied. I just got to keep on working."
Curry, who reasoned that he ‘ran out of real estate' when explaining why he chose to run down the players tunnel to keep his celebration going, spoke to his pleasure in being able to witness Thompson's historic performance firsthand:
"That's a feat that I would put money on to probably never be touched ever again in the history of basketball. It's unbelievable," said Curry. "It was just so much fun to watch. We appreciate that entertainment value as his teammates to see what he was able to do tonight. It was crazy."
Kevin Durant, who has been known to put up points in bunches himself on occasion, was equally stunned and caught up in the moment of the offensive display transpiring in front of him.
"I don't even know what to say," admitted Durant. "I've never seen anything like it. In 29 minutes? And not even play the fourth quarter? That's unheard of. I mean I've watched Kobe (Bryant) score 80 and 62 in three quarters but to be on a team and be at the game and be on the sideline to watch it, that was crazy."
At this point, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised anymore when Thompson (or Curry, or Durant, etc.) produces an offensive onslaught like he did against the Pacers on Monday. Then again, those onslaughts are typically of the unconscionable variety, impossible to rationalize and digest as anything close to normal or expected. It's one of the reasons why any given Warriors game is a can't-miss event, and why, according to Thompson, you can't rule out the possibility of a repeat performance sometime down the line. When asked if he believes if the Warriors have reached their peak offensively, Thompson responded with an answer that is likely to keep opposing coaches up at night.
"I don't think so, we're only 21 games in," said Thompson.
"There's definitely another gear."
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