No. 1: Thompson makes history — The Golden State Warriors’ third best scorer dropped 60 points on the Indiana Pacers on Monday. In fact, Klay Thompson shattered the record (previously 46 by teammate Stephen Curry) for the most points in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) by a player who played less than 30 minutes. Thompson made 21 of his 33 shots, including eight of his 14 3-point attempts, and Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle was there to witness it:
By this point, his teammates have grown accustomed to seeing transcendent shooting performances. But in the first half Monday, when Thompson bested his previous career high for a half of 39 points, they reacted on the bench like kids on Christmas. Midway through the second quarter, after Thompson turned around to hit a contested three from the corner, Curry wandered down the sideline before jogging halfway up the tunnel to the locker room.
“I ran out of real estate to try to keep my celebration going,” Curry said.
Thompson, perhaps the best three-point shooter of all time not named Curry, seldom dominates the ball, hits shots in the flow of the offense and cares little for fame. This from a player who has netted 37 points in a quarter and 11 three-pointers in last season’s playoffs Game 6 at Oklahoma City.
Soon after Durant signed with Golden State in July, a Yahoo Sports article quoted Thompson as saying, “I’m not sacrificing (expletive), because my game isn’t changing.” Those nine words rippled through social media and left many questioning his motives.
Twenty-one games into the Durant era, the point Thompson was trying to make is clear. When his teammates realized Thompson was in a groove Monday, they found him in transition, off screens, standing idly in the corner — wherever he was open. Thompson hit four three-pointers in the second quarter, prompting fans to stand every time he touched the ball behind the arc.
“I think all of our guys are cognizant of the fact that, when a guy has it going, get him the ball and him his career-high,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “That stuff is fun.”
ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss writes that a big game from Thompson brings the Warriors together more than one from Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant…
Every star has his hot streaks, but Thompson might be the star most defined by his. Curry’s greatness became dependable to the point of routine, but Thompson still has the claim of 37 points in a single quarter. He still has the claim of 41 points and 11 3-pointers in a must-win Game 6. Although Thompson’s cold snaps can be frigid, his hot streaks can summon the surreal.
When Klay Thompson is on, it’s as though the shots fly before the thoughts. Although he might be unconscious, his teammates are highly aware of what’s happening. It’s a different experience than Curry or Kevin Durant in a flow, mostly because it’s so participatory. Curry and Durant call their own numbers, but Klay must get open and be fed. Screens are set with zeal, as teammates eagerly look for No. 11. On Monday, the communal joy extended to the bench, where Thompson’s 40-point half had Curry bounding about with deranged glee. Almost incidentally, Golden State had scored 80 points in a half, their second time doing so this season.
Before it was surreal, it was workmanlike.
“Think it started for me when I got a few layups in the beginning,” Thompson recalled. “That really opened up my game. Whenever I’m active off the ball, that’s when I’m at my best.”
Thompson started off torching Monta Ellis for an array of 2-point baskets — a reminder of why the Warriors opted for Thompson over Ellis as their 2-guard of the future. Then Thompson found pay dirt racing behind an Indiana defense that looked every bit like the Pacers were feeling fatigue on the back-to-back.
No. 2: DeRozan as the next Kobe Bryant — DeMar DeRozan isn’t leading the league in scoring anymore, but he’s still scoring at the most efficient rate of his career and he’s still not shooting threes at a very high volume. DeRozan has seen another increase in his free throw rate and is the league’s master of the mid-range, just like his idol was. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes how DeRozan’s love for Kobe Bryant’s game and his similar work ethic has gotten him to where he is:
The winter sunrise would begin during the half-hour drive through Rio de Janeiro, which DeRozan remembers with a half-smile, half-grimace. This was the obsessive hard work that can make someone one of the best athletes in the history of the world, and it is not easy. Technically, the destination was the Clube de Regatas do Flamengo, an aging athletic club behind tall concrete walls. In reality, the destination those days and most days was any old training facility anywhere — because that’s where you go to become the next Kobe Bryant.
DeRozan grew up about 15 miles south of Staples Center, learning to play like Bryant at Lueders Park Community Center on North Bullis Road, where his father watched over him to ensure gangs kept away.
He still has a bitter memory of Game 5 in the 1997 playoffs against the Utah Jazz, when Bryant shot a series of air balls in an overtime loss. “I was 7 years old, and I wanted to cry,” DeRozan said. “He was my passion.”
In his early teen years, DeRozan began studying every Bryant move. At age 16, he met Bryant at a summer run at Loyola Marymount, and Bryant quickly took to him, offering his brand of vicious advice when they’d see each other. DeRozan swallowed it whole.
“Kobe had an aura around him when he was on the court; he intimidated all of us. I was inside a video game,” DeRozan said. “I’d watched him growing up. I watched Kobe do everything. His shot. His footwork. How he works in the post. Everything growing up was Kobe. I tried to emulate the tough shots he took, his pump fake. There’s nothing you can show me that Kobe has done on a court that I don’t know about or have tried. I practice almost all of them.”
No. 3: Bulls downplay Rondo suspension — The Chicago Bulls suspended point guard Rajon Rondo for Monday’s game against Portland (a 112-110 loss). Multiple reports say that Rondo got into an exchange with Bulls assistant Jim Boylen. But as you might expect, the Bulls say they’re moving on. The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc and K.C. Johnson have the story:
Rondo had an emotional exchange with associate head coach Jim Boylen during and after Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, including throwing a towel in Boylen’s direction during the game, according to multiple sources.
Rondo quickly apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates, two sources said. He met with coach Fred Hoiberg on Sunday and attended a team holiday party. Rondo and Hoiberg also spoke on the phone Monday afternoon, and afterward Hoiberg said he is “very confident in my relationship” with Rondo.
Teammate Jimmy Butler said after Monday’s shootaround that Rondo “has been great” since signing a two-year, $28 million free-agent contract that includes a $3 million buyout option in the second year.
“This is just another bump in the road,” Butler said. “He’s a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.
“These things happen, and when things happen you handle it the way you’re supposed to handle it. I think we all love Rondo; I know I do. He’s been a great mentor to me (and) made me a much better player.”
No. 4: Hawks make a lineup change — Trying to put an end to a six-game losing streak, Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer made a change to his starting lineup, bringing Kyle Korver off the bench for the first time (in the regular season) in the coach’s four seasons in Atlanta. The new starting lineup (with Thabo Sefolosha in Korver’s place) was a plus-1 in less than 10 minutes together and Korver hit three 3-pointers for the first time in seven games, but the Hawks’ slide continued with a three-point loss to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution talked with the Hawks about the change:
According to coach Mike Budenholzer, the change will not be short term.
“I think change up the mix of the group a little bit,” Budenholzer said. “I think Kyle can be really effective off the bench. Put Thabo in there with the starters, the impact he has at both ends of the court, the way he’s played. Really, just changing up the mix. Obviously, we are hopeful it will be good for both (players) and us in the end.”
Sefolosha will join Kent Bazemore on the wing.
“It’s the coaches decision,” Sefolosha said. “I’ll do my best. I think it gives us a different look. We have to change something to try to get it going.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: J.R. Smith suffered a knee injury on Monday … So did Andrew Bogut, who may not be long for Dallas … The Orlando Magic would like to trade for a scorer … The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t getting any healthier … Neither are the The Miami Heat …. and LeBron James and some other Cavs have decided not to stay at a Trump-branded hotel in New York this week.