OAKLAND, Calif. -- The "Splash Brothers" nickname indicates no vast separation of status between Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. In the past, it seemed as though the moniker elevated Thompson beyond where he was, putting him in the same category as the franchise’s star. No longer. Not after these past few months, not after Friday night. The Warriors have multiple franchise players now. Klay’s a co-star, not just a supporting actor.
That’s the context for a stretch that made you forget context exists. Every now and again there are moments when even the most experienced observers gawk in glee, forgetting everything but what they’re seeing. Tonight was that.
By the time you read this, you’ll likely know Thompson scored 37 points in a quarter. Perhaps you’ll know Thompson made every shot he attempted (13 attempts, nine 3s) in the stanza and supplemented the fusillade with only two free throws. Maybe you’ll have heard he had 52 points in 33 minutes, or that his 37-point stretch came in under 10 minutes.
Those facts are staggering. The experience was astounding. He just kept topping himself, that quick-release form swishing shots seemingly simultaneous to his catching the pass. It all happened faster than one can reasonably process. He turned a close game into a blowout while obliterating not just the opponent, but even the sense that there was an opponent. It’s a minor footnote that the Sacramento Kings were blown out 126-101.
The crowd didn’t quite know what to do with itself after a while. There were murmurs between cheers. More than a few fans pulled their phones out to chronicle the end of the third. After the game, Curry watched the sequence on his phone, surrounded by reporters. “You’re interrupting a great show,” he said with a smile.
His teammates were at a loss for words. “Y'all making me look like I don't know how to talk to the media at all right now. I honestly don't know what to tell y'all,” Draymond Green said between laughs. Always the gifted gabber, Green found a way to convey the surreality of Klay’s night. When asked if you could do what Thompson pulled off in the "NBA 2K" video-game series, Green said, “Nah. You don't get that hot in '2K.' Them video games [are] real now! That wasn't real!"
Curry burst out laughing from across the locker room after Green delivered the line.
Marreese Speights, who had a pretty good game himself, refused to talk about his own exploits. When he was asked about Thompson’s game, though, he also spoke to the lack of realism in what we all just witnessed: “That wasn’t no game. That was a movie.”
Steve Kerr noted that he’d never seen Michael Jordan pull off what Thompson had just done. Crazy as it sounded on the face, it’s objective fact. The greatest player ever never had a quarter quite like this.
Thompson was also struck by the sense of having just experienced the surreal. When asked if he’d ever envisioned doing something like this, he said, “It's kind of crazy it's a reality. It's crazy, man, I'm sitting in front of you guys talking about it in January.”
He credited his father, former Laker Mychal Thompson, a swaggering man who implored his soft-spoken son to believe. Klay said of his dad, “He told me at a young age. He saw my gifts at an early age. He said, 'Klay, your jump shot can take you long ways.'"
Klay followed that up by noting his father’s high expectations, saying, “I guarantee you first thing he says to me is, 'You probably should have had 60.'"
It’s hard to envision Klay topping what he did on Friday, but it’s very Mychal Thompson to think in that vein.
Yes, it was against the fractured Kings, and yes, this was a “meaningless” game in January. But if you can’t enjoy an athlete tapping into something almost supernatural, performing the extraordinary before an amazed crowd, why watch sports? To borrow a phrase from Sacramento’s broadcasting crew, if you don’t like what you saw on Friday night, you don’t like NBA basketball.