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Klay Thompson’s unique 60-point performance

Klay Thompson got his in historic fashion. But the Golden State Warriors blew out the Indiana Pacers with passing.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Many Warriors’ critics warned that there’s “only one ball” when Golden State added Kevin Durant to their 73-win team — to which Klay Thompson responded: “Guess what we’ll do — we’ll put it in the hoop.” And boy did Thompson put the ball through the hoop on Monday night versus the Pacers to the tune of a career-high 60 points.

But Thompson’s performance is unique in that he didn’t pound the air out of the ball in isolation to drop 60 points, which is how most players have reached that mark. Instead, Thompson’s points came within the flow of Golden State’s offense. The Splash Brother doesn't have to thwart Head Coach Steve Kerr’s offensive sets to get his shots, and that’s partly why the “only one ball” argument, while true in a literal sense, is bunk.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Kevin Durant said. “Crazy. He probably had the ball in his hands not even two minutes combined the whole game.”

What’s more, Thompson willingly sat out the entire fourth quarter of a blowout instead of going for 70 or 80.

Not one to create his own shot, Thompson feeds off teammates such as Stephen Curry, Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia — all of whom are willing passers. The sense of elation from Thompson’s teammates as they zealously screened for him and found him for open 3’s and backdoor cuts was palpable. Even the Warriors’ bench erupted in celebration as Thompson put on a show in front of the Oracle crowd.

Not only was Thompson’s performance a spectacle, it also was historic, as he became the first NBA player ever to score more than 50 points in fewer than 30 minutes. Fittingly, Thompson embarrassed his predecessor, former Warrior Monta Ellis, the most during his onslaught. While everyone in the arena anticipated another three by the man with the hot hand, Thompson zipped to the corner where he caught the ball and turned around as he launched a fade-away jumper over Ellis from an impossible angle.

Thompson is undoubtedly one of the greatest shooters ever, especially after this game. But he kicked off the night doing damage in the paint. His first four shots were reverse layups, a couple of which came via leak-outs in transition. Although it’s one of his biggest weaknesses, Thompson got to the free-throw line 11 times, one short of his career-high. Thompson aggressively attacked the basket and forced himself to the line. But even Kerr was impressed after Thompson finally jumped into his man after a pump fake instead of side-stepping. Initiating contact after the pump fake is a feasible way for the All-Star shooting guard to get easy points from the free-throw line, considering he isn’t much of a slasher.

Thompson’s 60th point came in the third quarter when he got his defender, Paul George, stuck in a JaVale McGee screen and back-pedaled to the corner for an open three. Nonetheless, the play of the game included Curry and Durant in a third quarter moment that was reminiscent of the iconic Dwyane Wade-LeBron James alley-oop in Miami. Green threw a touchdown pass to Curry, who tossed the ball behind him, while in midair, to Durant who finished the play with a left-handed slam.

Based on the team stats, it would be nearly impossible to conclude that one player went off for 60. Every active player on the team got in on the action, recording at least one basket, and the Warriors as a team picked apart Indiana’s defense with an incredible 45 assists on the night. Even on a historic individual scoring night, the Warriors annihilated their opponent with the pass.

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