What was most striking about Klay Thompson’s 60-point beatdown of the Indiana Pacers tonight was how easy it all was. The Warriors already had one of the best offenses in NBA history last season and they replaced their worst starter with a former MVP during the offseason, so the amount of available space that their stable of historically great shooters has to work with on the average possession tends to be far greater than they need to get good shots up. Thompson made great use of that space to score 60 tonight, but his gaudy point total (the most in an NBA game this season) had as much do with the Warriors’ machine-like efficiency as it did with his individual talent.
Thompson had 40 at the half and only ended up playing 29 minutes. He destroyed the previous record for points scored in under 30 minutes and only one of his 21 field goals was unassisted. As his highlight reel shows, most of his shots were open and none of them were forced. NBA players usually only score this many points when they chuck shots or shoot a million free throws. Thompson did neither, instead moving into the right spots off the ball and leaking out in transition. He had an incredible shooting night, but he didn’t strain any more than he does in the average game. Rarely will you see such a spectacular individual performance look so casual.
It’s impossible to ignore the incompetence of the Pacers here. Monta Ellis was woefully unprepared to deal with Thompson’s off-the-ball genius or quick trigger finger. It doesn’t help that Ellis can’t match up with Thompson physically. Even at the end of Thompson’s time on the floor, the Pacers failed to rotate onto him when it was obvious to everyone with a passing interest in the game that he was going to keep shooting until his hand fell off or Steve Kerr put him on ice.
Had the Pacers found a way to stay close to the Warriors, Thompson undoubtedly would have scored more. He sat down for good with a minute and change left in the third quarter, and if you extrapolate his per-minute averages over, say, 10 more minutes, he was on pace to push Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. Kerr obviously had to pull him, especially given the persistence of the narrative that the team cost themselves a championship by chasing 73 wins, but as a fan it’s still disappointing to see points left on the table in a game like this.
That said, nothing about Thompson’s 60-pointer seems the least bit irreplicable. This team will churn out more supernova performances as the year wears on because they have a trio of the most combustible scorers in the NBA and they’ll only play better the more time they have together. The Warriors produce these sorts of shots every game, and maybe next time, it’s Curry or Durant who’s on the sharp end of things.