While the Golden State Warriors didn’t win any silverware in 2016, it was still a vintage year for the franchise and for Klay Thompson. The Dubs won an incredible 73 regular season games, breaking the record for most wins previously held by the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls. Thompson, meanwhile, became the first player in NBA history to sink 11 three-pointers in a playoff game.
It happened against the Oklahoma City Thunder on this day. The Warriors were playing on the road at the ever frenetic Chesapeake Energy Arena and were on the brink of elimination, having dropped three of the first four games of the series. Coming off a huge Game 5 victory in Oakland, the reigning champs and favourites to win it all again needed to win Game 6 in order to force a Game 7 back home and keep their hopes of a repeat alive.
Trailing 48-53 at the half, the Warriors came out fighting and took an early 54-53 third-quarter lead. But after a back-and-forth battle for much of the period, the Thunder went on a 6-0 run heading into the fourth. Down 75-83, the Warriors had it all to do, but that’s when Klay came into his own.
With just under 10 minutes left on the clock, he made his eighth trey of the game, before knocking down his ninth with 8.38 remaining. That shot put him on par with some of the game’s great shooters, but he wasn’t done there.
The record-breaking shot was a straightaway 28-footer over Russell Westbrook that cut OKC’s lead to just four points, before his final bomb gave the Warriors an unassailable 104-101 lead with 1:35 to go.
Thompson finished the game with 41 points on 14-of-31 shooting while going 11-18 from deep. As Warriors coach and retired sharpshooter Steve Kerr said after the game: “Obviously, Klay Thompson was ridiculous. I mean, the shooting was some of the most incredible shooting you’ll ever see.”
Fellow Splash Brother Steph Curry, who scored 31 points of his own on the night, added: “All Klay needs is a sliver of daylight. The shots he made tonight were huge, obviously. But they were shots that he had his feet underneath him, and he just had all the confidence in the world. He understood the moment.”
As for the man himself, he thought he could have had more: “I should have had at least 13 because I missed some wide-open looks early.”
Thompson’s big night inspired the Warriors to take Game 7 at home, setting up a Finals series for the ages with LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Having lost to Golden State the previous year, the Cavs overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the series in seven games. The title was the franchise’s first and the first championship won by a major professional sports team from Cleveland since 1964, ending a 52–year championship drought dating back to the 1964 NFL title won by the Cleveland Browns.
The Warriors would bounce back the following year, winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 before flaming out in their fifth-straight Finals appearance in 2019.
Thompson’s record for three-pointers made in a playoff game still stands today.