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Behind the Numbers: Klay Thompson's Historic Night

We are currently in a postmodern golden age in the NBA. While we can still yearn for the days of Russell/Wilt, Bird/Magic, and Jordan versus the world, there is no way to deny that the current iteration of the league has more than enough talent to keep us engaged on a nightly basis. The advent of Twitter and the availability of NBA League Pass have been the perfect storm to sweeten the deal all the more, as every potential historic performance or buzzer beater is within an arm's reach.

On Friday January 23rd, our very own Steven Royalty wrote on his must-read daily NBA Fanduel evaluations that Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson was a guy “he likes very much tonight”, noting that he was in the middle of a hot streak. Facing the defensively-challenged Sacramento Kings, it was probably a good bet to believe that Thompson was a nice option to include in any fantasy format.

However, what transpired during the game, and especially during the fateful third quarter, was well above the wildest expectations we could have.

Entering the game, Thompson was clearly having the best season of his young career, but still second on the pecking order to teammate Stephen Curry. During the first 40 games of the season, the shooting guard averaged 21.9 points per game, with a season-high 41 coming in the second game of the season. After that, Thompson also reached 40 in mid-January, but could only surpass 30 on one occasion. His average game score, a stat devised by Basketball Reference to weigh each player's contributions during a single game, was of 15.8 (well above league average). In other advanced metrics, Thompson ranked in the top 20 of many important categories, such as PER, Win Shares, and Usage rate.

Also, in his previous two games against the Kings, he had combined to score 44 total points. So while it is comfortable to say that Klay had been one of the best players in the NBA and deserved recognition, it is also fair to state that his offensive explosion still came out of the blue.

Heading into the third quarter, with the Warriors battling with a 56-51 lead, Thompson had scored 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting. So in that sense, he didn't even foreshadow what was about to come after halftime. With the score tied at 58, and with 9:44 to play, Thompson nailed a close-range jump shot. A minute and change later, he drained a three-pointer, as he would just a minute later, followed by a monster dunk, one more trey… and so it went seemingly on and on for the rest of the quarter.

If you prefer to recap the madness, here it is in glorious video form:


In the end, the final tally is astounding. Thompson finished the quarter with 37 points (!!!), including going 13-for-13 in shooting, along with an insane 9-for-9 in three point attempts. The rest of his teammates scored only 4 points combined during the period. A run that started with a tie game ended with the Warriors leading by 24, effectively denying Thompson any chance to go off in the fourth quarter (he scored only two points and left to a roaring standing ovation).

To put it all into perspective, here is a list of records and other impressive facts set by Thompson during that glorious third quarter.

  • His 37 points are now the highest mark in NBA history for a single quarter. The previous holders were George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony with 33.
  • His 9 triples broke the single quarter record, which was held by Michael Redd and Joe Johnson with 8.
  • His 13 field goals tied the highest mark for a single quarter, a record he now shares with David Thompson.
  • During the same NBA night only one team was able to score more than 37 points in a single quarter: the Cavaliers with 42 in the second against Charlotte.
  • His 11 total triples for the game fell just one short of tying the all-time record with Donyell Marshall and Kobe Bryant.
  • Thompson's Game Score was an amazing 44.8, and his plus/minus stood at +39.

In the end, we may be able to say that this kind of performance will never be seen again. The fact that it took Thompson less than 10 game minutes to score 37 points is simply unreal, and that he did it in a team with multiple scoring options suggests that he was in another zone throughout the third quarter.

If you happened to have him in FanDuel for that day and won something, you definitely now stand in Klay Thompson's debt.


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