OAKLAND — Klay Thompson has not had an ideal season 41 games into the year.
One of the best jump shooters of his generation, Thompson’s numbers over the course of the first half of the season sit well below his career averages. An eight-game stretch during the month of December defined a slump unlike any the four-time All Star had experienced in his eight-year NBA career.
On Tuesday night, however, Thompson officially broke out of the funk, hitting seven 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 43 points, contributing to what’s been a rarity for the Golden State Warriors this season: a blow-out win, this one at the expense of the visiting New York Knicks, 122-95.
“It’s good to see Klay knock down shots for sure, but nobody worried about him. He’s Klay Thompson,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “He can get it going any time so we just wanted him to keep shooting and be aggressive, which he will always do.”
Thompson eclipsed the 40-point mark for just the 12th time of his career but his performance came as no surprise to his teammates or coaches.
“He’s been doing this for a long time,” Kerr said. “So absolutely you expect him to break through and tonight was a night where he did so.”
“It’s not like we’re looking at his hand like, ‘Welcome back, we missed you,’” added Durant. “It definitely turns us up a notch when Klay is on fire like that.”
Thompson has averaged a 45-percent shooting percentage over his career as well as 41-percent from 3-point range. This season, though, he’s seen career-low marks that include a 35-percent mark from beyond the 3-point line.
This was, in large part, due to an eight-game stretch in the middle of December that saw the five-time All-Star shoot an abysmal 10-for-48 from distance, marking the worst stretch the Washington State product has seen since joining the league in 2011.
Thompson’s approach to getting out of the slump: Keep shooting. Over his last three games coming into Tuesday, Thompson was 9-for-18 from 3-point range, and 24-for-48 from the field.
With 29 shots on Tuesday, Thompson led Golden State in field goal attempts by a wide margin, nearly doubling his highest-volume teammates, with Durant and guard Stephen Curry putting up 14 and 19 shots, respectively.
“Tonight, he had it going in the first half,” Curry said. “I think the ball was moving from side-to-side and we weren’t really forcing anything. He got a rhythm early and was aggressive and obviously that second half kind of turned into a show, which was fun.”
With 17 points on seven-of-14 shooting from the floor, Thompson paced Golden State through the first half of the game. Of the 17, five came in the a 13-0 run that turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point advantage heading into the locker room.
“Just close the quarter strong, that’s what we always talk about,” head coach Steve Kerr told Thompson and the rest of the Warriors roster during a timeout before the run.
Thompson carried the momentum over to the second half, scoring 13 points each in the third and fourth quarters, hitting four of his eight 3-point attempts.
“I just thought I was getting good shots. I was in a good rhythm,” Thompson said. “It’s the best feeling on a basketball court when you get into one of those zones. They don’t happen very often, so when you do enter them, you try to stay in them for as long as you can and get great looks every time down the floor.”
Thompson hit three 3-pointers in a two-minute span during the fourth quarter to give him 43 total points, pushing Golden State’s lead to 28 points with 5:33 to play.
As a result, Kerr would pull all of his staters, signaling that beginning of garbage time as the Warriors coasted to a 27-point win over the Knicks, their 10th straight win over New York. The win was, however, only Golden State’s fourth win of 25 points or more this season.
“When we walked off, Klay was feeling good about the way he played,” Curry said. “[He] was like. ‘When was the last time we blew somebody out? Was it 2016?’”