Welcome to King of the Court, our daily celebration of the best players in basketball from the night that was. We’ll be keeping track of the best player of every night of the NBA season, and tallying the results as we go along.
Kings of the Court: Klay Thompson and Jamal Murray
On Monday night, the Warriors reduced the Pacers to a very fine mist in a 142–106 rout. Could I interest anyone in a fun fact?
Through the first two quarters, Klay Thompson put up 40 points — yes, two quarters, 40 points — on 15-of-22 shooting in a game that was over by the half (it was 80–50). By game’s end, in just 29 minutes, Thompson finished with a career-high 60 points — the most points ever scored by a single player in less than 30 minutes of playing time. Ever.
I, for one, thought that Thompson should be tried in the Hague for his bloodlust and wanton cruelty.
But Steph Curry seemed pretty psyched about it.
The rightful King of the Court should be “All the Close Games on the Monday Night Slate.” Thunder-Hawks, Blazers-Bulls, Spurs-Bucks, and Rockets-Celtics were all decided by three points or less. (OKC, Portland, San Antonio, and Houston won.) The Pelicans took the Grizzlies to double overtime, eventually losing by two, 110–108.
But, so far as we have rules for this, the King of the Court must be a person, and I’ll explain why that person would have been Jamal Murray, but for Klay going all Johnny Storm on Indiana. First, an extremely deep Hallmark Channel reference:
There’s an episode of Touched by an Angel (THAT I DID NOT WATCH OF MY OWN ACCORD) called “Nothing But Net.” In it, a basketball star, Eric Zachariah “E.Z.” Mony — who looks sort of like Nick Van Exel, but that’s neither here nor there — attempts to point-shave and throw a basketball game. But, in an effort to teach Mony a lesson, God refuses to let him miss a shot. Eyes closed, from half court, over his head, off of one foot; every shot goes in, no matter how impossible.
Now, E.Z. Mony was a cantankerous old, and a gambling addict, and bald, and Jamal Murray was just over 7 months old when this episode of Touched by an Angel aired. But that’s exactly the kind of night the rookie Nuggets guard was having on Monday.
Heading into Denver’s game in Philly against the ever-struggling Sixers, Murray was 12 of FORTY-FIVE from the floor over his previous five games. But Monday night he reminded us that “streaky” does not mean altogether bad — especially when you’re two years away from your first legal drink — and with this buttery transition 3 over a half-hearted defensive effort from Ersan Ilyasova late in the first half, Murray was up to 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting. It was like he couldn’t miss (except for, you know, the two times he missed).
Denver won 106–98. Murray finished with 22 points on 12 shots in just over 23 minutes, but I feel comfortable in saying that the rookie made a rather sturdy case for increased playing time. As the Nuggets look to sort out their hinky backcourt of Murray and second-year player Emmanuel Mudiay, coach Mike Malone will probably note that his veterans seem to like Murray. Will Barton — a.k.a. William Denard “Trill” Barton — actually passed up an open 3 for Murray at one point, and all night, it seemed as if Jameer Nelson was purposely seeking no. 27 out for assists.
It could’ve also been that Nelson knows a hot hand when he sees one.
Runner-up: LeBron James
Two truths and a still-kind-of-truthful untruth:
- If you throw an alley-oop literally anywhere in the arena — from half court, the stanchions, the concession stand, the visitor kiosk, the parking lot — LeBron James will apparate to wherever it is, catch it, and dunk it.
- Over 13 full seasons in the league, LeBron James has never played less than 69 games in a regular season, with the exception of the shortened 2011–12 season, during which he played 62 out of a possible 66. He’s missed more than seven games exactly one time in his first 13 years. Which, playing as LeBron James does — like the Hulk grabbing Loki by the ankle and cratering the floor with his puny British demigod body, or doing literally anything in this clip — is mind-boggling. Well, it’s mind-boggling if we exclude the possibility that LeBron actually emits gamma rays and is impervious to everything, which would include landing awkwardly after nearly hitting his head on the backboard while finishing an alley-oop.
- LeBron James is the Hulk.
With a 116–112 win over the Raptors on Monday night, the Cavs snapped a three-game skid against the only team that might ruin what’s shaping up to be Episode III of the Cavaliers-Warriors Trilogy come this summer. LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined for 86 points, but LeBron led all scorers with a season-high 34. He also added eight rebounds and seven assists.
Also, LeBron James has now scored more points against the Raptors than any player in history. I mean, he already had going into Monday’s game, but it’s even more factual now.
Honorable Mention: Victor Oladipo
This is only an Honorable Mention for Victor Oladipo because I don’t know what the antithesis of “Honorable Mention” is. If I did, I would give it to Dwight Howard.
You can’t be 6-foot-13 and let stuff like this happen to you.
The Thunder won 102–99, handing the Hawks their seventh straight loss. They are SOLEMN in southwest Atlanta right now.