Klay Thompson remembers the night Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006. Thompson, a teenager growing up in Los Angeles as the son of an NBA player, was offered tickets to the game. He opted not to go.
Almost 11 years later, Thompson did his best impersonation of a performance he never saw, exploding for 23 of his career-high 60 points in the second quarter on Monday night, propelling the Golden State Warriors to a 142-106 home victory over the Indiana Pacers.
“I never would have thought I was capable of that,” Thompson said of Bryant’s feat. “I don’t know (if I could have matched it Monday). We should keep the game closer next time.”
Thompson’s 60 points came in just 29 minutes, making him even better than Bryant in that regard. He became the first NBA player ever to score at least 60 points without playing 30 minutes.
“We know he’s capable of that,” gushed Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who saw Thompson pour in an NBA-record 37 points in the third quarter of a win over the Sacramento Kings in January of 2015. “It always feels like it’s a possibility.”
Thompson, whose previous career high of 52 came in that same game against the Kings on Jan. 23, 2015, hit 21 of his 33 shots and went 8-for-14 on 3-pointers.
The 60-point performance was the first of the NBA season, and first since Bryant went for 60 in his career finale last April.
“It definitely reminded me of it,” Thompson said in comparing Monday’s effort with his 52-point game. “It’s a zone to cherish when you’re in. It’s something you don’t take for granted because you never know when it’s going to happen again.”
The last NBA player to score more than 60 points in a game was LeBron James, who had 61 against Charlotte on March 3, 2014.
Thompson scored 17 points in the first quarter, 23 in the second and 20 in the third en route to the fourth 60-point performance for a Warrior since the team moved west in 1962. Wilt Chamberlain had two such games (62 and 63 points), and Rick Barry had a 64-point night on March 26, 1974, against Portland.
The 60 points also were the most ever scored against the Pacers. George Gervin held the previous mark at 55.
With Thompson showing the way, the Warriors (18-3) led by as many as 11 in the first quarter and 30 in the second.
Thompson did his best work in the second quarter.
After re-entering a relatively close game (44-37) with 9:10 remaining in the half, Thompson immediately regained the touch that had produced his 17-point first period. He hit three 3-pointers and a pair of inside-the-arc hoops in a 15-2 flurry that extended the lead to 59-39.
Thompson made four of his eight 3-pointers in the second quarter, which ended with Golden State in complete command at 80-50.
Thompson was pulled from the game with 1:22 left in the third period. He admitted afterward he had hoped to go back in.
“The game was in hand,” Kerr said of ending Thompson’s night early. “It was never a thought.”