By Rob Johnson
Special to S.F. Examiner
CHICAGO — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has gotten off to a sizzling start to the season, and is on pace to make around 500 3-pointers this year. Kevin Durant is playing the most efficient basketball he’s ever played and shooting a career-high 55.6 percent.
Then there’s Klay Thompson, who’s been going through one of the worst shooting slumps of his career.
Monday night versus the Chicago Bulls, Thompson got back to form. He scored 22 of his 52 points in the first quarter of Golden State’s 149-124 win, and in the third quarter, broke Curry’s single-game NBA record for 3-pointers, finishing with a 13-for-24 line from beyond the arc.
“This is what I do this for, those moments you get to share with teammates, that’s why we play basketball,” said Thompson. “I don’t know how many teams I could be on and be as fortunate enough to be shooting as poorly as I did and only have one loss.”
Thompson scored 36 in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including 10-for-14 from long distance. Thompson tied Curry’s record in the third quarter in dramatic fashion, as he suffered a gash on his forehead. After a trip to the team physicians, he returned with a bandage, secured with a gold headband.
“I look like Jackie Moon out there,” Laughed Thompson. “He’s one of my favorite characters in all sports movies…
Thompson missed his next few attempts after returning, and the most disappointed person in the whole United Center that the shots didn’t drop was the record-holder Curry. He hopped up and down, seemingly willing Thompson’s shots to fall, and eventually, one did, as Durant hit Thompson on the right-side of the arc for the record-breaker.
“It’s one of the best feelings, when you touch the ball and feel like it’s going in every time,” said Thompson. “I’m just so blessed to be able to play with the guys I do. It was an amazing night that I hope I never forget.”
Thompson’s teammates were aware and counting his every shot. Even the inactive Shaun Livingston, who was in the locker room nursing right foot soreness, ran out to mob Thompson after he achieved the record, but head coach Steve Kerr—who won three titles with the Bulls as a player—had no clue.
“I didn’t even realize what was happening until they called a timeout … and then Thompson said, ‘Two more, two more.’ At that point the guys were just feeding him every time,” said Kerr. “I think that’s how much they care about Klay and felt for him, because he’s had a rough start to the season … and obviously he got it going tonight.”
Curry had a 51-point game in just three quarters last week against the Wizards, Durant had 25 points in the fourth-quarter in the game following that against the Knicks. It was only a matter of time before Thompson joined them.
Before Monday’s game, Thompson was averaging 15.1 points per game and shooting a dismal 13.9 percent from long range, but after scoring 52 points in 27 minutes, he is now averaging 19.8 points, and pulled his three-point percentage all the way to a respectable 31.7 percent.
During Thompson’s record run, he faced extra defenders, leaving teammates like Alfonzo McKinnie the wide-open beneficiaries. McKinnie — who grew up just 12 minutes from the United Center, where he used to watch the Bulls in his youth —ended up knocking down 4-for-6 3-pointers in the game.
“There was a point in time where I didn’t expect this to happen,” said McKinnie. “I wanted it to happen, I prayed for it to happen, but at the time it wasn’t looking promising… But now I’m just excited to be a part of this. I couldn’t be happier.”
Earlier Monday, McKinnie — who played in Europe, Mexico and even in professional 3-on-3 before breaking camp with the Toronto Raptors last year — was finalizing the paper work for the house he just bought his mother in the Chicago area, thanks to his two-year contract with the Warriors.
“Today has been a great day so far,” McKinnie said. “She’s ecstatic, that’s all she ever talked about. She wanted a house, and I’m just happy I could do that for her.”
In McKinnie homecoming, he recorded his first career double-double by scoring a career-high 19 points and collecting 10 rebounds in front of friends and family, including his mother.
“I missed some real easy bunnies. I was a little bit nervous, but then as the game went on, I just happened to be in the right spots at the right time,” said McKinnie. “When I did get it, people were focusing on him (Thompson) and closing out on him, and I was just open at the right times.”