Sports

Klay Thompson Goes off for 60, Still "Not Sacrificing Shit"

Klay Thompson scored 60 points in 29 minutes last night and took only 11 dribbles to do it.
December 6, 2016, 5:22pm

"I'm not sacrificing shit," Klay Thompson said back in the summer amid speculation that the Golden State Warriors' signing of Kevin Durant might eat into his personal opportunities. It was a direct denial from someone who ought to know, but still, you could see why concerns had been raised. Even the best superteams tend to look more cooperative on paper than in practice; once the games begin, one player tends to assert his importance, and others slip into supporting roles, however subtly. The arrival of Durant might have signaled new possibilities for the Warriors, but it also might have meant the end of the pinging, egoless passing that had defined them during their two-year gallop through the NBA.

On Monday night against the Pacers, Golden State beat the Indiana Pacers by a score that suggests a sadistic teenager at a video-game console, 142-106. Thompson scored 60 points, all of them coming in the first three quarters. For Thompson, it was the latest outburst in what is shaping into a career year; after a rocky start, he is now averaging personal bests in points, effective field-goal percentage, and shot attempts. For the Warriors, it added to mounting proof that they have managed what other superstar collages haven't, devising a system that lets all of its participants stay their full selves.

After the game, Thompson tweeted, "I don't think I had to take more then 5 dribbles the whole game lol." He was off by a little bit—ESPN's Tom Haberstroh counted 11—but the sentiment rang true. Thompson got his 21 buckets (eight of them threes) in those recognizable Warriors ways: coming off a perfectly-angled screen to catch and shoot, spotting up while Durant or Stephen Curry pulled defenders away from him, noticing a defense stretched too far to the three-point arc and back-cutting for an easy layup. The purest highlight of Thompson's night, an off-balance corner triple with Monta Ellis right in his mug that made the Golden State bench go ballistic, was also the least representative moment. The rest of the 60 came within the flow.

That, more than the ridiculous numbers, is what should scare the rest of the league about Thompson's outing. The Warriors have lately made a habit of thrashing middling opponents—three straight 30-plus-point wins in late November, two more blowouts at the start of this month, a scoring average that sets your laptop's cooling fan to work when you try to look it up—but their fine-tuned collaboration over that stretch augurs even better things than hefty early-season margins of victory. Durant has never been more efficient, Curry has never been less taxed, and Draymond Green still has plenty of room to fill up stat sheets and flail his shinbones.

Thompson's line both celebrated and resulted from this mutually beneficial vibe. His individual numbers might not be repeatable, but the system that produced them looks increasingly locked in. "I felt every shot I took was a good shot," he said after the game. These days in Golden State, they all are.