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Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Notes on Klay Thompson's 60 Point Outburst

On Monday night, Klay Thompson erupted for 60 points in just 29 minutes as his Golden State Warriors routed the Indiana Pacers, 142-106. Thompson, who shot 21-33 from the field (including 8-14 from three point range), set an NBA record for most points scored while playing fewer than 30 minutes (previously, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone had each needed 33 minutes to score at least 60 points). Thompson did not play at all in the fourth quarter or else he might have challenged Kobe Bryant's pro basketball record for most points scored by a guard in a single game (81)--but it is worth noting that Bryant once outscored Dallas 62-61 after three quarters before sitting out the entire fourth quarter (that Dallas team finished 60-22 and advanced to the NBA Finals); also, in 2002, Bryant scored a then career-high 56 points in three quarters versus Memphis before sitting out the entire fourth quarter because the Lakers led 95-59. During his career, Bryant scored at least 50 points in the first three quarters of a game no less than five times!

The media coverage of Thompson's superb game is interesting. The New York Times neglected to mention Thompson's assist total (1)--a number that was invariably brought up whenever Bryant had a big scoring night--but did snarkily comment that the most recent 60 point game in the NBA happened last season when Bryant was "abetted by his teammates," which makes it sound like Bryant and/or the Lakers committed some kind of basketball crime. Did Thompson's teammates not "abet" him? The reality is that assists were awarded on 20 of 21 Thompson's made field goals. While field goal attempts might be harder to come by when you have talented teammates like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, the flip side of that is that Thompson is not likely to draw many double teams, either, regardless of how hot he gets. In any case, despite the sniping about Bryant's valedictory effort it will be interesting to see how many years pass before another NBA player with a repaired Achilles tendon drops 60 points in his final NBA game while playing alongside a bunch of young teammates, many of whom are not worthy of single coverage let alone double coverage.

In general, most players who have a 60 point game only do so once, so even though Thompson is an explosive scorer he likely will never match what he just accomplished. Wilt Chamberlain holds the NBA record for most 60 point games in a career (32), while Bryant is second with six, Michael Jordan is third with five (four in the regular season plus one in the playoffs) and Elgin Baylor is fourth with four (three in the regular season plus one in the playoffs). No one else has done it more than once; the other 60 point scorers include David Thompson (73), David Robinson (71), Pete Maravich (68), Rick Barry (64), George Gervin (63), Joe Fulks (63), Carmelo Anthony (62), Tracy McGrady (62), LeBron James (61), Shaquille O'Neal (61), Karl Malone (61) and George Mikan (61), plus several players who scored exactly 60 one time (Gilbert Arenas, Allen Iverson, Tom Chambers, Larry Bird and Bernard King). Julius Erving's ABA single game career-high was 63 points, four short of the ABA record of 67 set by Larry Miller. Other ABA players who scored at least 60 points in a game include Stew Johnson (62) and Zelmo Beaty (63).

Other than Stew Johnson (who briefly held the ABA single game scoring record), Thompson is the only player who was the third option on his team to score at least 60 points in a game--and the second option on Johnson's 1971 Pittsburgh Condors, George Thompson, did not play in Johnson's 62 point game, while Durant and Curry both played during Klay Thompson's big game. It is difficult to think of many other teams in pro basketball history that had three scoring options as potent as former scoring champions Curry and Durant plus Thompson, who holds the NBA record with 37 points in one quarter. It is uncommon for a team to have three legit, healthy 20 ppg scorers and it is rare--if not unprecedented--that the third option would realistically be capable of scoring 50 points, let alone 60. Curry and Durant have each scored 50 points in a game on multiple occasions and are certainly capable of scoring 60 in a game.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:46 AM

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At Wednesday, December 07, 2016 4:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great points!

People forget that in most if not all of Kobe's highest scoring games he did it by going isolation against double teams and sometimes even triple teams or box and 1 you name it. This is way more taxing on your body and he gets majority of his points from one two dribble pull ups from mid-range or getting to the basket which both requires a tremendous amount of legs in you.

Thompson was obviously phenomenal and he set the record for the shortest time to get 60 points in the shot clock era. But I put this game far below Kobe's 62 against Dallas because:

1) As you mentioned he has Steph Curry arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the league and a four-time scoring champion in Kevin Durant. There was no way the Pacers would have been able to double team him.

2) The whole team made a conscious effect to get him the ball to encourage him to break his career high similar to what they did for Wilt's 100 point game. But this something that you don't see in Kobe's high scoring games.

3) The Warriors were already up 30 or more points in the third quarter - this downplayed the significance of his scoring outburst. It was more or less a sign of desperation of trying to break his career high and hopefully set another NBA record.

4) As you mentioned he was assisted on 20 of his 21 FGs and probably 98% of his points were catch and shoot with majority of them uncontested.

This is not a knock on Thompson's performance, to be able to get 60 points on any level is an amazing feat. Even though he had great teammates you have to give him credit for being as great of a shooter that he is. But I feel annoyed when people praise about his performance and criticise Kobe for not having an assist or jacking up shots just to break records.

 

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