LOS ANGELES — By this point, Warriors guard Klay Thompson is used to the speculation that he’ll sign with the Lakers in free agency this summer.
The narrative is too juicy for media to resist: The son of a former center for the “Showtime” Lakers, Thompson grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant and heaving shots at Staples Center before players began their pregame warm-up routines. Never mind that Thompson has publicly stated his intention to spend his entire career with Golden State.
In the Warriors’ 130-111 win Monday night over the Lakers at the arena he grew up attending, Thompson showed just how much he would help a Los Angeles team armed with salary-cap room and the allure of being LeBron James’ top sidekick. In 27 minutes, Thompson scored 44 points on 17-for-20 shooting, including 10-for-11 from 3-point range.
He made his first 10 3-point tries to set an NBA record. In the third quarter alone, Thompson drilled seven 3s and posted 23 points — just two shy of the Lakers’ total. Not until the 3:55 mark of the third did Thompson have his first, and only, miss from beyond the arc.
“Klay does that five or six times a season,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said. “You guys have seen it. He just got red hot, white hot.”
Along the way, Thompson celebrated with a string of impromptu jigs that had social media abuzz.
After hitting his fourth three in a 147-second span to open the third quarter, he turned around, stuck out his tongue, put his index and thumb together for the universal sign for money and stared down boxer Floyd “Money” Mayweather, sitting courtside. Four-plus minutes later, Thompson did a full 360-degree turn while hopping on one leg.
All of this came without him needing to deviate from his catch-and-shoot blueprint. To record his 13th career 40-point game, Thompson dribbled only eight times.
“It just happened to be one of those nights,” Thompson said. “It’s the best percentage I’ve ever shot. It just happened to be one of those nights.”
Overshadowed by Thompson’s record-setting efficiency was an uneven showing from DeMarcus Cousins. In his second game back from an Achilles injury that sidelined him almost a year, Cousins posted eight points on 2-for-9 shooting, with nine rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes.
To get Cousins into a rhythm, Kerr made sure Cousins was his only All-Star to play in the fourth quarter. Thompson’s big third already had propelled the Warriors from a 65-55 halftime lead into a 110-80 cushion.
Golden State has won eight games in a row, including wins over the two Los Angeles teams by a combined 37 points. The number of NBA fans calling the Warriors “unbeatable” and bemoaning an end to competitive balance continues to grow.
Just consider this: Though the Lakers were without the injured James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo on Monday, they held Stephen Curry to 3-for-12 shooting (2-for-10 from 3-point range). His lasting image of the night came when slipped on a dunk attempt, jumped to his feet and promptly air-balled a corner 3.
It didn’t matter. With Thompson guiding the way, the Warriors had 41 assists to only 10 turnovers.
“We kind of just sold out to look for Klay, to be honest,” Kevin Durant said. “When he’s knockin’ down shots like that, you’ve got to continue to feed him until he goes cold. Tonight, we didn’t see that in sight.”
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
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