OAKLAND – Free your mind, and your game will follow . . . if you have game.
Klay Thompson had game growing out of his pores Saturday night. One day after signing a $70 million contract extension that binds him to the Warriors for the next five seasons, he went out and destroyed the Lakers.
Facing the team he followed as a child and one of the idols of his youth, with his father at courtside, Thompson lit up the scoreboard for a career-high 41 points on 14-of-18 shooting, leading the Warriors to a 127-104 win over Los Angeles.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Thompson's career-high 41 lifts Warriors past Lakers]
Stephen Curry fired in 31 points while locking up Jeremy Lin (6 points, all on free throws) as the Warriors delighted their 83rd consecutive sellout crowd in their home opener.
"Backcourt's not bad," coach Steve Kerr cracked afterward.
As good as Curry was, and has established himself to be, this night belonged to Thompson. He was the subject of a pregame news conference in the wake of his contract extension. His father, Mychal, was in the room, along with one of his biggest advocates, Jerry West. A player that has improved in each of his first three seasons, Klay Thompson sat before media and, with his future now secure, promised to get even better.
Who knew he would immediately deliver conceivably the best game of his career?
"He can get better, for sure," Kerr said. "I'm not sure he can play better than he did tonight for one game."
Said Curry of his fellow Splash Brother: "He puts the time into the game and makes it happen. It's fun to watch."
Thompson started warm and just got hotter. He had 5 in the first quarter, 8 in the second, 15 in the third and 13 in the fourth, as the Warriors buried the Lakers. His 28 second-half points came on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor, 4-of-5 on 3-pointers and 4-of-5 from the line.
It was 41 points the "easy" way, with a standing ovation as Thompson left the floor.
"It's a special feat,'' he said of cracking the 40-point barrier. "But I'm (happier) with the win.
"But I'm not going to lie: it's a great feat. I did it a couple times in college. Not a lot of players get to do that. So it's something I'll look back on one day and say, 'That's cool. Opening night, against the team I watched growing up.' It's a special feat."
The night included a third-quarter stretch during which there was a spirited duel between Thompson and Kobe Bryant, whom Thompson studied while growing up in Southern California. Bryant won the points battle in that quarter, 19-15, but Thompson was more efficient, eight shots to Kobe's 15.
Bryant was impressed, saying he saw Thompson's potential after his rookie season.
"There are not a lot of 'two' guards that have that combination of post (moves) and defense and mid-range and long range," Bryant said.
Less impressed was Mychal Thompson, who happens to be his son's biggest fan and harshest critic. His reaction? We'll let Klay provide it.
"It's a great game tonight. Just try to follow up with the same tomorrow night."
That's the goal. That's what Kerr was talking about. That's what, come to think of it, Klay Thompson was talking about when he said he can continue to get better.
THE GOOD: Thompson was smoothly incredible. It was a marvelous performance yet somehow understated.
Curry's defense smothered Lin and Curry's offense lit up anyone getting in his way. He added 10 assists and three steals just because he could.
Harrison Barnes looked active and energized, scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He looked as good as he has looked at any time since the 2013 playoffs.
THE BAD: The Warriors started as if they had this game won merely by taking the floor. They trailed for most of the first quarter, in which the Lakers – who are mediocre at best – shot 62.5 percent.
THE TAKE: Through the Warriors took their time demolishing the Lakers, Thompson was in a destructive mood from the start. He says he would not have been hindered by the lack of a contract extension, and maybe he's right. But he clearly was engaged and loose, attacking from every angle. He played like a man secure in his place, confident in his game and eager to see how good he can be.