It was a fairly normal-feeling game from Klay Thompson last night. After he calmly poured in a season-high 38 points on 22 shots, he started off his post-game interview by praising Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
It’s been a theme of his entire career - Thompson is perhaps the NBA’s most humble superstar. His game is predicated on quick cuts, moving without the ball and then quickly firing off a shot - often times without a single dribble. On the other end of the court, Thompson regularly covers the opposing team’s most dynamic threat. You may not have noticed, but it’s no stretch to say that he is this teams best perimeter defender as well as one of the most lethal offensive weapons in the entire league.
Klay’s big night
Just one week prior to last night’s 119-112 handling of the plucky Chicago Bulls, coach Steve Kerr gave Thompson a rare night off against the Los Angeles Clippers. In the midst of one of the best seasons of his career, the Warriors training staff told Kerr that Thompson looked “fried” and had requested treatment for a lower back issue.
Thompson poured in 38 points over 37 excellent minutes against a Chicago Bulls defense that struggled to chase his relentless off-ball movement all night. The Bulls weren’t helpless victims in this, in fact, their three point lead at Halftime may have been something of a catalyst because Thompson. With less than a minute elapses into the 3rd, Thompson hit a three. 45 seconds later, he hit another one. Both were smooth, wide-open, and in rhythm. Because that’s how Klay does it.
Here are some examples, courtesy of Anthony Slater at The Athletic:
The Bulls coach, Fred Hoiberg didn’t struggle to come up with an explanation for the loss after the game:
They’re so hard to guard. It’s all about their movement. You’re a split-second late - you’re dead. They’re going to hit a three right in your face.
And hit threes in their faces is exactly what Thompson did all night - seven of thirteen from deep last night, or 53%. This isn’t unusual for Klay, but it never ceases to be impressive. Still, when he gets going like he did last night, even Kevin Durant comes away impressed and deferential:
“When they got it going like that, just play your role and know your place,” said Kevin Durant, who finished with a quiet 19. “Stand behind and try to assist them, find them good shots.”
A career year
Thompson is an odd superstar, not because of his love for chocolate milk, and hate of Gatorade but because he doesn’t self-promote. Like...at all.
Thompson is playing above his career average in basically every category and eyeing membership in the exclusive 50-40-90 club - that is: shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the foul line.
This is a feat only achieved by seven players in NBA history: Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. More importantly, it is a goal that Thompson admitted he was chasing. For our sanguine superstar, this is probably his most unequivocally strong statement about anything other than his beloved dog, Rocco:
“I know Steph and KD have hit the 50-40-90 mark,” Thompson said Friday. “So, I’d like to join the club with them. That would be sweet.”
It would be sweet. And it is completely achievable.
He’s a bit below the marks - currently sitting at 48.9-45.4-88.1 - but the bigger concern is actually going to be about whether or not Thompson can get enough free throws to qualify. At only 1.5 free throws per game on average, it’s something that coach Kerr has been begging both Thompson and Curry to improve. From Anthony Slater (again), watch Curry celebrate the And-one and then immediately turn to point at Kerr on the bench:
“Any time we get (fouled on a) pump-fake 3, I go crazy,” Curry said. “Coach gets a little butterfly inside of his gut because he asks us to do it a lot.”
The fans have noticed the remarkable season, I know fan voting isn’t necessarily a perfect proxy for public sentiment - but it’s worth a raised eyebrow to note that Klay’s 686,825 All Star votes put him ahead of other big name stars like Anthony Davis, Demar Derozan, and Paul George.
Klay Thompson is your Warrior Wonder, bask in it, talk about it.