It was only a matter of time before Klay Thompson would get hot. The (other) sharpshooting guard of the Golden State Warriors, Thompson ended his season-long slump in a huge way, setting an N.B.A. record with 14 3-pointers on his way to 52 points in just 26 minutes on Monday night.
The Warriors — probably needless to say — beat the host Chicago Bulls, 149-124, dominating so thoroughly that they pulled all of their starters with 4 minutes 53 seconds left in the third quarter.
For Thompson, the performance was a relief, even if it was not all that big of a surprise. Through the Warriors’ first seven games, he had shot just 5 for 36 from 3-point range, an unsettling development for a player who came into the season with a 42.2 percent career success rate from behind the arc. Theories ranged from his pending free agency to his off-season beard being the culprit for his struggles, but Thompson, as shooters so often do, simply shot his way out of a slump.
Once Thompson got hot, his teammates started feeding him the ball and watching the show. The formula has worked in previous games: one in which Thompson scored 60 points (in just 29 minutes) and another in which he recorded a 37-point quarter.
Against Chicago, Thompson shot 18 of 29 over all and 14 of 24 from 3-point range, repeatedly finding space on the floor off the sharp passes of Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. It became almost routine that once Thompson got the ball, he let it fly with confidence rarely seen outside of a Golden State game, and he broke the previous record of 13 3-pointers, which Curry set in 2016.
“Even before I went out for the second half, Steph looked at the box score and said, ‘Go get it,’ ” Thompson said of the record. “That just shows the unselfishness that is within him.”
The only thing that slowed Thompson was a collision with his teammate Damian Jones in the third quarter that opened a cut on his head.
Thompson needed two stitches to close the wound after the game, but in the moment insisted on staying in the game. He put a bright yellow headband over the cut so it would not violate N.B.A. rules for bleeding.
That Thompson was gunning for a record owned by Curry added to the game’s entertainment value. Curry, a two-time winner of the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player Award, came into the game as the league’s leading scorer, but after Thompson set a record with 10 3-pointers in the first half, Curry repeatedly sent the ball his way in the second half trying to get him to 14.
Curry, whose record streak of games with at least five 3-pointers ended at seven, got the assist for Thompson’s 13th 3-pointer; Durant assisted on No. 14. Joking with reporters after the game, Durant took full credit for Thompson’s brilliance.
“The most important thing about tonight is that I passed it to him for his 14th,” Durant said. “And I also passed it to Steph for his 13th 3 last time, so, yeah, they wouldn’t have made those shots without me.”
(Durant’s attempt to take credit fell just short: Green, not Durant, assisted on Curry’s record-setting shot.)
The game could have been far worse for the Bulls. The Warriors scored 92 points in the first half — the second most an N.B.A. team had scored in a first half — with Curry being almost an afterthought despite having 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in the half. He did not score in the second half as he and Durant (14 points) each had season lows for scoring, repeatedly deferring to Thompson. Green scored just three points and Jones, the team’s fifth starter, scored two.
The pace slowed once the starters were pulled from the game, and the Warriors were actually outscored by the Bulls, 55-36, the rest of the way, but Golden State still ended up setting a franchise record for team 3-pointers with 24.