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Klay Thompson Busted a Slump by Making History

Thompson broke Steph Curry’s record for most made 3s in a single game—and he did it all in three quarters

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

When it rains, it pours. And when Klay Thompson gets going, it cascades like Niagara Falls. Thompson struggled to get going at the start of the season; one of the best shooters in recent history entered Monday’s game against the Bulls making 13.9 percent of his 3s. But the floodgates opened for Thompson in Chicago. The result was a 52-point performance where Thompson made 14 of his 24 attempted 3s, surpassing teammate Steph Curry for the most made 3s in a single game. And he did it all in 27 minutes of the Warriors’ 149-124 victory. Here, I did the math for you: That’s a scoring rate of 1.93 points per minute.

Part of the beauty of the Warriors’ dominance is that when each player is at his absolute best, he is uniquely dominant. When Curry gets hot, it feels like a supernatural experience. When Durant gets going, it feels right—a 6-foot-11 superstar taking over like the second-best player in the world does. When Thompson does it, it feels more like a machine performing at optimal efficiency. There’s a methodical nature to Thompson’s shooting—from his form to his off-the-ball movement—which when undeterred is unstoppable. The Bulls were surely not deterring anything Monday night.

Klay’s first 3 came just two minutes into the game in the right corner squarely in front of the Warriors bench. His third 3 came just over a minute after the first, and it got the Bulls to call a timeout; as Thompson made his way to the bench, he was swarmed by teammates—the Warriors wanted him to get out of the slump as badly as he did. His fifth 3 was a rare dribble pull-up from the wing with three minutes left in the first quarter. It should have been the obvious sign that on this night there was confidence in every flick of his wrist.

Thompson’s ninth 3, which came with five minutes left in the first half, was a quintessential Warriors possession. His 11th 3 came with blood on his forehead, right above his right eye, after he ran into teammate Damian Jones just over two minutes in the third quarter; and his 12th 3 quickly followed after he was treated for the cut. After tying Steph Curry’s record of 13 3s in a single game, the Warriors looked for Thompson on every possession. He missed four in a row. Then the record-breaking 14th 3 came with just under five minutes in the third. Thompson, now wearing a bright yellow headband to cover his cut, raised his arms in the air in celebration once the ball dropped in. With the outcome of the matchup firmly in hand (the Warriors were up by 44 points at this point), the night became about the game within a game. After three titles in four years, the Warriors will be searching for any and all motivation in a regular-season game. And because of that, you can never rule out a performance like this one becoming their new project for the evening.

Thompson exited the game for good with four minutes left in the third quarter, and as he walked through the tunnel to the locker room where he would receive two stitches, he was feted by a cheer from the Chicago crowd.

Thompson’s explosion coincided with an all-around epic scoring night from the Warriors. Golden State scored 92 points in the first half—the second most in a half ever—and finished with 149 points—tied for the most by a team this season. They shot 55.2 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from 3. Curry had a quiet 23 points in 25 minutes. Their offensive rating was 143.3 points per 100 possessions. On the receiving end, the Bulls were helpless to stop the offensive deluge. People say everyone in the league is scoring like the Warriors now; the Warriors will happily counter with a clinic that blows anything else out of the water.

It felt like the Warriors were playing a different game altogether. In some ways, they are. Golden State has come out firing on all cylinders this season; they lead the league with a 120 offensive rating, and their only loss through eight games was by two points on the road in Denver. The Warriors can beat you by deploying the full force of four All-Stars, and they can also embarrass you by letting one of them get his. With this Warriors team, you can never rule anything out on any night. Not even history.