Why Did This Happen?
Before we get into the actual plays, here are my quick thoughts on WHY this happened tonight. It was a combo of factors. It was a good shooting night (8-14 3FG%), but not an ungodly one like in the 37 pt quarter,
1. Klay got many more shots than usual. He had 33 FGAs, and his previous high was 21 FGAs. On 11/13 v PHX, he scored 30 on 11-18 shooting. That would scale to 60 on 36 shots, so it’s not THAT out of line for him.
2. He moved well off-ball and his teammates were feeding him. Note FGAs and Oliver says 20 is the most assisted FGs since 2003.
20 of Klay Thompson's shots were assisted. That is the highest I can find (since 2003). Next highest was 18 for Wally Szczerbiak in 2003.— Dean Oliver (@DeanO_Lytics) December 6, 2016
Also he barely dribbled or held the ball.
According to SportVU tracking data, @KlayThompson had the ball in his hands for a total of 88.4 seconds last night.— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 6, 2016
To score 60 points.
3. All of his shots were good ones within the offense, except for one fun heat check (the turnaround 3).
4. The offense created a number of easy points for Klay cutting to the basket, which the Pacers had a hard time guarding. His defender has to follow high to prevent the 3, so then someone would have to rotate to stop him and that didn’t always happen. .
5. The other action the Pacers had trouble with was Klay’s little curls. Same issue as in the back cuts in #4, the defender HAS to trail him or give up a three, so someone needs to rotate.
6. Sometimes the Pacers were just sloppy on D with defenders losing track of Klay. And twice the Pacers let Klay run out for easy layups on great Curry passes.
7. Klay drew 11 FTs, unusual for him. Previous high: 6FT this season, last season, he only once has 11 or more.
So, I’d say it was a good night from Klay, combined with bad defense which overplayed Klay to prevent 3s so the offense generated for Klay easy 2s, and the Warriors were running 50% more plays for him. If the W’s run into similar bad D and run their offense well, Klay could get 60 again with good but not fantastic shooting. (He actually missed some easy shots.)
Here are the stats from Klay Thompson’s historic game.
Notes on Klay Thompson's career-high 60-point game: pic.twitter.com/Q5SWy7oXpv— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) December 6, 2016
And here are all of Klay’s made shots with my brief notes on them. I embedded a couple of interesting plays where he was fouled.
(3) 10:37 Klay Thompson makes 25-foot three-point jumper (Draymond Green assists) 0 - 5. Casual switching from the Pacers. Monta Ellis hands responsibility for Klay over to Myles Turner, who then points to Nobody to take over covering Thompson. Nobody does (this is like that story where Odysseus tells the cyclops that his name is Nobody ... ). Thompson drifts over to the wing completely open.
(5) 8:18 Klay Thompson makes 21-foot jumper (Draymond Green assists) 7 - 10. Klay pick-and-roll with Zaza Pachulia, little dish to Klay in the corner. Klay does not think Monta Ellis can block him under any circumstances and shoots right in his face.
(7) 6:56 Klay Thompson makes 10-foot two-point shot (Draymond Green assists) 13 - 15. Klay misses a jumper, Pachulia hustles for the offensive rebound and Klay attacks the closeout for a layup.
(9) 6:33 Klay Thompson makes layup (Zaza Pachulia assists) 13 - 17. A beautiful feed from Pachulia. This is the dive/pop action we discussed thoroughly in Explain One Play: Durant Reverse Dunk and Curry 3 from Next Level Split Cuts, where two shooters (here Klay and Stephen Curry) come together and suddenly one dives to the basket and one pops out for a catch and shoot. Ellis seriously overplayed Klay to pop out and got burned. Ellis begins to suspect this will be a long night.
(11) 5:33 Klay Thompson makes 18-foot two-point shot (Draymond Green assists) 15 - 21. Check out the screen from Curry that springs Klay free to curl around the screen from Pachulia. Klay’s feeling it and hits the straight-on jumper.
(13) 5:07 Klay Thompson makes two-foot two-point shot (Stephen Curry assists) 17 - 23. Good drive, not good help from Indiana weak-side defenders. Pachulia’s man, Turner, has to leave him to give help.
(15) 4:00 Klay Thompson makes two-point shot (Stephen Curry assists) 19 - 25. This was one of three exquisite 3⁄4-court passes from Curry this quarter. Klay was guarding the shooter, Paul George, and Klay just took off down court on the miss, leaving George behind.
(17) 3:03 Klay Thompson makes two-point shot (Stephen Curry assists) 23 - 29. The second exquisite Curry pass. Klay just beat everyone down court after a MADE basket. Bad hustle from the Pacers.
(19) 8:55 Klay Thompson makes layup (David West assists) 37 - 46. I was originally going to write just about this play and the next before Klay went nutso all game. This is a nice little play from a HORNS formation where Klay just curls around the elbow screen from Kevin Durant. No one wants to switch off Durant so Klay walks down the lane for a layup when no one else rotates. Ellis looks around in despair. Where is the help? Why have you all forsaken me??
Two plays later, you saw the same formation with Klay cutting down the middle, but button-hooking back to screen for Durant instead. Good counter to overplaying Klay on the cut. (More on HORNS: Explain One Play: Kevin Durant Passes for Curry Layup and Looney Dunk).
(21) 7:50 Klay Thompson makes 10-foot two-point shot 39 - 48. I felt like this was the subtle heat check. He shot this right in the larger Turner’s face. Heat confirmed. Very unusually, Klay has exclusively scored two-pointers (except for the first shot) so far.
(24) 6:54 Klay Thompson makes 25-foot three-pointer (Kevin Durant assists) 39 - 53. Scramble situation, Klay left alone. Durant is fitting in well. He understands the joy of seeing your teammate do something special and the Warriors’ Way is to make that happen, even if that means force-feeding a guy taking irresponsible shots.
(27) 6:33 Klay Thompson makes 27-foot three- pointer (Draymond Green assists) 39 - 56. Two Pacers need to go to Draymond Green to stop him from going straight to the hoop. Nice little pass to Klay, nice little pump-fake and side-Steph move. The bench starting to heat check their celebrations. At the start of the play, Ellis ends up on the ground, after Green ripped the ball away, and he did not recover in time to enter the picture. Instead, he stared up at the rafters and thought about a grassy hill far away.
(30) 6:03 Klay Thompson makes 24-foot (Shaun Livingston assists) 39 - 59. Klay wanders across the court, gets the ball and, showing the aforementioned absolute disrespect for Ellis’s block game, shoots a turnaround three in his face. Others may call this irresponsible. In fact, I would call this irresponsible. But the Oracle crowd feeds on the energy from these risky plays, and the W’s feed on that crowd energy. The reward was far greater than three points.
Curry comments on this shot:
Steph Curry on his tunnel run: "Ran out of real estate to continue my celebration" pic.twitter.com/NWe0QIj7Hi— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 6, 2016
Meanwhile, Ellis stares stoically. Many miles away something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish Loch.
(32) 4:41 Klay Thompson makes two free-throws 41 - 61. Draws a foul pushing the ball in early offense 1-on-2.
(34) 2:33 Klay Thompson makes five-foot two-point shot (Kevin Durant assists) 42 - 70. Ellis gets so thoroughly lost that Klay has time to backdoor cut to the hoop at a slow jogging pace. Ellis seems kind of low motivation by now, after repeatedly running into screens and having Klay disrespectfully shooting in his face. Ellis silently passes Klay off to Paul George, and then moves on to pushing Curry slowly in front of him towards a potential offensive rebound putback. Good strong finish for Klay.
(37) 0:48 Klay Thompson makes three free-throws, 48 - 77. The whole game had gotten a garbage-time feel by now. Here is a curl for Klay which leads to a Klay drive which leads to an open Andre Iguodala open corner three. Since this has become a concept game by now, Iguodala does not shoot it, but rather waits for Klay to come get the ball and shoot the three.
Ellis follows Klay around the original screen but then loses interest when Klay gets to the paint. He finally notices Klay has the corner three, runs into his own man, falls for the pump-fake and smacks Klay in the face. I bet this felt good to Ellis at some level.
(40) 0:28 Klay Thompson makes 27-foot three-pointer (Stephen Curry assists) 50 - 80. I LOVE THIS PLAY. If I could run this on NBA2K, I would do this every single play. Curry gets a high staggered screen, first from Klay then from Kevon Looney. Klay then immediately runs Ellis, who by now is feeling like he doesn’t need all this hassle, into a Looney screen. Two defenders cover Curry so Klay gets an open three. That’s Curry gravity for you.
(42) 10:34 Klay Thompson makes 19-foot two-point shot (Stephen Curry assists) 54 - 84. Quick little out of bounds play. Klay curls around a Pachulia screen. Halftime does not seem to have reduced Ellis’s despair. He lets Klay have the jumper.
(44) 9:32 Klay Thompson makes layup (Zaza Pachulia assists) 56 - 86. Another nice little play. First, Curry dives to the basket, well-covered. Then Klay dives and he loses Ellis, who is going through the motions at this point.
(46) 8:22 Klay Thompson makes two-foot two-point shot (Kevin Durant assists) 58 - 90. Another out of bounds play for Klay, the mirror image of the one at 3.10:34. Klay curls around a Pachulia screen and Ellis, who is starting to get philosophical about the whole thing, loses him the same way as before. A good little fake by Klay freezes Turner long enough for Klay to get the layup by him.
In fairness to Ellis, the Pacers scheme seems to be to follow Klay above these curls, so it’s not his fault that the rest of the team isn’t rotating better to stop Klay. Also, with the game so out of hand, Pacers apparently feel no need to try things like double-teaming or anything new. Save the new twists for later meaningful minutes.
(48) 7:05 Klay Thompson makes two free-throws, 63 - 93. In a blowout, you don’t want to be trying out all your new plays which would give the league video to plan against. So here is a really classic play that the Warriors borrowed from the Spurs.
It’s the Motion Weak set with the ball swinging back to Curry after a shallow cut, then cross-screens in the paint, with Klay zipper cutting to the top to get the ball. Klay is being guarded by Jeff Teague now and Ellis has, to his great relief, switched away from guarding Klay to the relatively easier (!) assignment of Stephen Curry. A ticky-tack foul by Teague.
For comparison, another Motion Weak play:
(50) 6:39 Klay Thompson makes two free-throws, 65 - 95. A garbage play with Klay driving and getting fouled on the kick-out to Durant. Not worth uploading.
(51) 4:45 Klay Thompson makes free-throw 1 of 2, 69 - 100. Another ugly freelancing play with Klay darting around Pachulia and eventually driving and getting fouled. Not uploading this either.
(54) 4:37 Klay Thompson makes 24-foot three pointer (Zaza Pachulia assists) 69 - 103. Pachulia makes an awkward dribble handoff to Klay, then hip bumps Rodney Stuckey to free Klay for the open corner three.
(57) 3:29 Klay Thompson makes 27-foot three pointer (Stephen Curry assists) 73 - 110. Curry steals the ball and you know something serious is happening when he does NOT lob to JaVale McGee cutting unguarded down the lane (notice Jeff Teague “re-assigning McGee” by getting Nobody to switch to him). No, this is bigger than playing with the Dunkomatic 3000. Curry waits for Klay to come back, flicks a lazy no-look pass (almost picked off) and Klay has an open three on the wing.
(60) 2:28 Klay Thompson makes 23-foot three-pointer (Andre Iguodala assists) 75 - 113. A simple little standard action you’ll see in the Warriors’ offense. McGee has gotten the hang of screening for a shooter cutting to the corner. Here, he gets enough of Paul George to give Klay space for an open corner three.
This game is a good example of why Klay Thompson is so valuable to the Warriors. He doesn’t need to dominate the ball to put up points. He moves without the ball (so many assists on his shots tonight), goes games without many shots and doesn’t complain, and every now and then goes bananas (compare Thunder Game 6).
I love how when someone gets going on the W’s, the whole team gets hyped and starts feeding them and running plays for them. We’ve seen it multiple times with Klay Thompson, notably his 37-point quarter; Ian Clark; even Kevin Durant in the OKC Returns game.
The dope thing about having an unselfish teammates is you don't score 34 in 1Q and finish the game with 40 @kevinlove— Beke (@BekeGSW) December 6, 2016
The funny thing is that Klay wasn’t even involved in the best play of the game, which was that Curry mid-air backwards no-look alley-oop to Durant.
Here’s a bonus highlight reel that shows a bit more of the plays and also the foul-drawing plays.
I was planning to write about the Warriors’ defensive flaws, with footage from this game and the Suns game. But I couldn’t not write about Klay. That means the Suns game is the first W’s win for which I skipped Explain One Play for this year. (By the way, last season I skipped exactly one win and only the most insane completist would be able to figure out which one.)
If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full, updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.