Klay Thompson Explodes for 44 as Warriors Destroy Lakers Without LeBron, Lonzo

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2019

Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson reacts after making a 3-point basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors used the Klay Thompson cheat code and continued their dominance with a 130-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at Staples Center.

Golden State has now won eight games in a row and is 2-0 since DeMarcus Cousins returned from a torn Achilles, while Los Angeles fell to just 5-9 since LeBron James suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day.

Thompson put on a show and finished with 44 points on 17-of-20 shooting from the field and 10-of-11 shooting from three-point range. His performance more than made up for a lackluster showing from Stephen Curry (11 points on 3-of-12 shooting), especially with Kevin Durant (20 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Cousins (eight points, nine boards and five assists) providing support.

Ivica Zubac spearheaded the offensive effort for a Lakers team playing without the injured James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo, and finished with 18 points and four rebounds.

         

Return of Ruthlessly Efficient Klay Is a Nightmare for Rest of League

Even casual basketball fans know how unfair the Warriors are at this point, with essentially an All-Star team as their starting lineup, but Thompson likes to provide a reminder to the rest of the league every once in a while.

The man who drilled 14 three-pointers on his way to 52 points in an October win over the Chicago Bulls, and who poured in 37 points in one quarter during a January 2015 win over the Sacramento Kings, is more than capable of going completely off at a moment's notice, and the Lakers were the victims of those circumstances Monday.

Thompson connected on his first 10 three-pointers in the blowout victory, and his teammates made a point of getting him the ball as he started racking up the points on his way to a record. Even the Lakers fans began getting into it by the third quarter once they realized they were witnessing something special.

It was a welcome sight for the Warriors for more than just the one victory.

Thompson entered play shooting just 36.5 percent from deep this season, which is quite the drop from his career-best 44.0 percent from 2017-18. In fact, he has never shot below 40 percent for a season in his career since he entered the league as a first-round draft pick in 2011.

It was fair to wonder if his contract situation was perhaps weighing on him, since he is set to become a free agent this offseason, but January has been a different story.

Thompson has now hit 50 percent or more of his triples in six of nine games this month, and he was shooting 44.4 percent from deep in January entering play. His hot streak put him at 50 percent, at least temporarily:

The Washington State product is rounding back into form, which is a nightmare scenario for the rest of the league.

As if dealing with Curry putting up MVP numbers, Durant as an unguardable assassin and Draymond Green as a facilitating playmaker weren't enough, opponents now have to worry about Thompson shooting like the all-time great he is for the rest of the season as his percentage gradually finds its way back to its norm.

The return of Cousins figures to give Thompson even more open looks in the second half of the season because of the floor-spacing the big man creates.

Golden State didn't have a true interior threat before Cousins was healthy, and he can now draw defenders into the block or work in pick-and-rolls with Curry. Those will force defenders to either follow him toward the basket or shift toward Curry as a three-point threat, and Thompson can simply spot up in the corner and take advantage of the additional stress on the defense.

Nobody is likely to beat a healthy Warriors team come playoff time, and Thompson's return to his ruthless efficiency is yet another reminder of how daunting the task will be in May and June.

          

What's Next?

Both teams are in action Thursday, with the Warriors at the Washington Wizards and the Lakers hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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