Klay Thompson enjoys facing the Lakers, so whenever the Warriors are in Los Angeles facing the team he knew so well as a child, there always is the probability of a Thompson scoring outburst.
That was the case Tuesday night, when Thompson lit up Hollywood with a 22-point first quarter on his way to 36 points, lifting the Warriors to a 109-88 rout of the Lakers at Staples Center.
“Being from L.A., I think he loves playing here,” interim Warriors coach Luke Walton said. "Whether it’s preseason, regular season, he likes this building. Growing up a Lakers fan, he’s always enjoyed these games, and he was great tonight.”
The game represented the first time this season that Thompson scored at least 30 points in consecutive games; he totaled 30 Monday night in a win over Charlotte. It also was Thompson’s highest point total ever at the arena he visited often as a youth and where his father, Mychal, a former Laker, works as a TV analyst.
“It’s always fun to come down here and play in front of friends and family, obviously against a team I grew up watching,” Thompson said. “So it was just a great win.”
Thompson was key to the Warriors taking a measure of control early, when he dominated the first quarter, making 9-of-14 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“He’s really found his shot and found his aggressiveness,” teammate Stephen Curry, who finished with 17 points in 26 minutes, said of Thompson. “I know he loves coming back to the LA area and playing, so it’s nice that he got to play well and knock down some big shots and really open the game up for us.”
With his usual array of jumpers, some off screens and others in transition, Thompson quickly established that the defending champions would not overlook the lowly Lakers, who showed signs of life with a recent three-game win streak.
“It kind of demoralizes the other team when you just keep getting open look after open look,” Thompson said.
The Warriors (33-2) made a point of looking for the hot hand at every opportunity.
“It’s a fine line,” Walton said. "But when you have a shooter as good as Klay, you live with that.
“The guy scored 37 points in a quarter (last January against Sacramento), so when someone like him gets hot, our guys are smart, setting screens and finding him,” Walton added. "It’s not just him running down the floor and shooting the ball off the dribble. For him those are still good looks, especially when he is hot, but when he misses one or two, we have to recognize that and get back into the flow of our offense.”
Thompson’s shooting was merely the highlight of an opening quarter that, on offense, was a thing of beauty: 12 assists, 15 field goals (53.6-percent shooting) and one turnover.
The Lakers (8-28) never really recovered, playing at a double-digit deficit over the final three quarters. The Warriors pulled away with a 22-0 blitz in the third quarter, needing less than six minutes to hike their lead from 66-55 lead to 88-55.
Thompson, by the way, scored 10 of those decisive third-quarter points. Stanford product Anthony Brown was assigned to Thompson but had little success, same as his teammates.
“He made a lot of tough shots,” Brown said. “If I had to do it over again, I probably would try to make his first shot a little harder. His first shot was a catch-and-shoot, and once he saw that ball go in...“
Once Thompson saw that ball go in, he felt right at home. With his dad looking on from press row and friends and family elsewhere in the building, the court at Staples Center became his own personal playground.