LOS ANGELES — Having spent five days — including a weekend — in Los Angeles — Klay Thompson’s hometown and a city where DeMarcus Cousins owns property, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr wondered aloud on Monday morning if his team would be dialed in, especially against the short-handed Los Angeles Lakers.
Thompson, though, was adamant about getting revenge for a 127-101 Christmas Day beatdown Golden State had suffered in Oakland.
“This is redemption,” Thompson said at morning shootaround. “We’ve obviously been on a nice little run since, but still, you’ve got to have a good memory in this league.”
While Thompson scored 44 points and set an NBA record for consecutive 3-pointers in Monday’s 130-111 win over Los Angeles — Golden State’s eighth in a row — and the Warriors indeed got a measure of redemption — albeit against a team without LeBron James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo — Monday served as proof that Golden State may be as unstoppable as it’s been during Kerr’s tenure.
“When it’s a beat-down like that, you’re going to remember it,” Thompson said of the previous meeting. “… Obviously they were short-handed, missing their point guard and their best player, but you can’t feel sorry, because teams won’t feel sorry for us when we’re wounded. Just happened to be on one tonight, and I was happy I was able to do it in front of my family.”
Thompson’s father, former Lakers center Mychal, was calling the game on the radio as his son hit his first 10 3-point attempts to break an NBA record for most consecutive 3-pointers to start a game, and went 17-of-20 from the floor. Only seven other players in the history of the NBA have had more points and a higher shooting percentage in one night.
The last player to have at least 44 points and shoot 85 percent or higher was Amar’e Stoudemire on March 19, 2010. Before that, Dominique Wilkins scored 44 by shooting 19 of 22 from the field on March 2, 1990, but he only took (and made) one 3-pointer.
“I think that’s the best performance I ever shot from the floor,” Thompson said. “It just happened to be one of those nights. It’s hard to explain … I’ve never hit 10 threes in a row in a game. That was hard. That’s hard to do. I thought I had 11 for a second.”
His 10-for-11 3-point performance upped his season 3-point percentage from 36.5 to 38.2, after going as low as 33.3 going into the Portland game on Dec. 29. Since then, he’s 48-for-92.
“He just got red-hot, white-hot,” Kerr said. “I don’t think the league has seen that very often. Has anybody ever gone 17-of-20 and 10-for-11 from three? It was just one of those nights. He’s been in a good groove lately. He got it going. His teammates were looking for him, we had 41 assists tonight, so the ball was moving, and Klay was just spectacular.”
It should come as no surprise that Thompson went off on Monday. The catch-and-shoot master is at his best when the ball is moving and the floor is spread out, and he practically grew up at Staples Center. Thompson would routinely put up pregame shots at Staples Center with his brothers before games his father called. He idolized Kobe Bryant and last season, saw both of his jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — retired. He played in three Pac-10 Tournaments in the arena, and came in second at last season’s All-Star 3-point shooting contest there, before playing in his fourth All-Star Game.
Thompson, who went 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-3 from three last time against the Lakers (25-23) in Oakland, came into the game shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three over his last seven games. He led all scorers with 21 at the half on 9-of-11 from the floor, then hit five straight 3-pointers as Golden State ripped off a 20-5 run to start the third quarter. As he drained his fourth 3-pointer of that run, he turned to the crowd and flashed the money sign at Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who was in attendance.
“It’s fun to entertain those who are paying to watch us,” Thompson said.
Along with being at home, Kerr said at shootaround on Friday that this was the first road trip where Thompson has brought his English bulldog Rocco.
“It’s good to bring him down here,” Thompson said. “I was able to bring him to my parents’ house, which he loves. It’s nice to have your pet. They bring you a lot of joy.”
Rocco will stay in Southern California as the team embarks on the final three games of Golden State’s five-game road trip, facing Washington, Boston and Indiana, but the joy, that looked to be something that may hang around for quite some time.
Stephen Curry was largely quiet from the floor (11 points on 3-of-12 shooting), but he tallied a game-high 12 assists. Kevin Durant hit his fadeaway mid-range jumpers to the tune of 20 points and Draymond Green directed traffic, dishing out seven assists.
The Warriors (33-14) were able to spread the floor, move the ball and attack in transition — hallmarks of Kerr’s joyful brand of basketball. That versatile attack predicated on ball-movement was what opened Thompson up for his historic night.
“We sold out to look for Klay, to be honest,” Durant said. “When you’re knocking shots down like that, you’ve got to continue to feed him until he goes cold, and tonight, I didn’t see that.”
Thompson hit 9 of his first 11 shots, as Golden State dished out assists on 21 of its first 24 field goals, leading by as many as 13 in the first half. While Thompson was sniping — hitting 3-of-3 from beyond the arc while the rest of the team shot 3-of-14 from three in the first half — Golden State was able to shred Los Angeles in transition, scoring 10 fast-break points in the first half to only two for the Lakers. The Warriors scored 10 more transition points in the first four and a half minutes of the third quarter, while Los Angeles scored just two.
Cousins, who had one of two back-to-back one-handed transition dunks in the second quarter, played 21 minutes in his second game back, after going 14 minutes on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. He admitted to feeling some soreness and fatigue in his legs, but not in his surgically-repaired left Achilles. In his second game back after a nearly yearlong recovery from a tear in the tendon, Cousins said he was much more sure of himself, although the results didn’t quite show it, and it was his presence that helped space the floor, allowing Thompson to do what he does best.
“Man, that’s Klay,” Cousins said. “I think we’re all used to it now.”
Still, when Cousins was informed that Thompson hit 10 straight, he uttered an expletive.
“Sh**,” he said. “That’s incredible. Man, it’s like a new record every day, isn’t it? That’s impressive. I was talking to [Andre Iguodala] on the bench, and I knew Klay had hit some shots, and I thought he had like, 25. I looked up and he had 41. I’m like, ‘What the?’ It was one of those nights. A good team effort all around, and we got the W. A little revenge game for us, as well.”
In his 11 first-half minutes, Cousins took three fouls including a charge (he wants to try and take one every game), pulled down seven rebounds and added four assists. He also scrambled to tip a loose ball out to Thompson in the corner for a 3-pointer in the final two minutes of the half. He looked even more athletic in the second half, going for an up-and-under and then getting his own rebound twice. Cousins finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five assists.
With Cousins still on the floor, and six minutes left in the third quarter, Curry ran the break and looked for Thompson on the right side of the lane. His pass was intercepted by a slashing Durant, who laid it in to give Golden State a 92-63 lead. With 38 points at the time, Thompson could spare those two.
Then, with 4:54 left before the end of the third quarter, Thompson hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, hung his right arm in a gooseneck, spun in a circle while hopping on his left foot and bobbled his head as he trotted back on defense. It was the last of his 3-point makes on the night. He and the rest of the Warriors All-Stars — save the still-conditioning Cousins — rested for the entire fourth quarter.
Jordan Bell getting heated with Steve Kerr 👀👀 pic.twitter.com/2nQqJX3IS9
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 22, 2019
— Curry, going up for what looked to be a dunk late in the third quarter, had his feet slip out from under him on a slick spot on in the key. Just hours earlier, the Los Angeles Kings had beaten the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, and condensation does have a tendency to leak up through the floor from time to time at Staples Center.
“I have no idea. A kid walked into a candy store with the whole half court empty,” Curry said. “I was going to try something real nice that I hadn’t tried before. The Lord wouldn’t let me do it. ”
Curry got up, dribbled to the corner and tried for a three, but airballed it.
— Jordan Bell, who slid a notch down the bench with the return of Cousins, had words with Kerr during a timeout in the fourth quarter, before Durant had to separate the two. Bell, who competed for the starting center spot with Kevon Looney at the start of the season after showing promise a year ago, has seen his minutes dwindle. Kerr characterized the shouting match as stemming from a “total misinterpretation of something I said,” Kerr said. “We cleared it up.”
Bell was quick out of the locker room and did not speak with media.
Durant said that he told Bell to stay focused on the game.
“We’re all going to go through times throughout the NBA where we want to speak our mind, might be frustrated over some things, and coach has been so open in letting guys get that out, but also challenging guys, as well,” Durant said. “It’s a healthy dialogue, and a healthy relationship between us and coach … I think Jordan understands that at this point, we want to continue to keep getting better. Younger guys in the league, coach is going to be on them a little bit more, and he sees the potential in him.”
Bell, a Long Beach native, was playing in front of family and friends, and was on the court for the final 7:09 of the game. The Oregon product, in his second season, put up five of the team’s 15 shots in that span, which may or may not have been the cause of the argument, as Bell has had issues with Kerr in the past in regards to his effort level and commitment to the team concept.
— Other players besides Thompson who had scored 44 or more by shooting 85 percent or higher from the field are:
Gene Banks on April 13, 1983 (19-of-22, 44 points)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Jan. 23, 1971 (20-of-23, 44 points)
Jerry West on Jan. 25, 1967 (16-of-17) 45 points
Mike Woodson on Feb. 20, 1983 (22-of-24, 48 points)
Wilt Chamberlain on Dec. 20, 1967 (20-of-23, 53 points)