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The Buck Stops Here: Thompson in zone by himself after 60-point night

Sixty points in a game is an accomplishment for any player, but it’s not exactly a rarity in the NBA. Wilt Chamberlain scored 60 points or more 15 times in 1961-62, when he averaged 50.4 points per game, and 32 times in his career. Kobe Bryant had six 60-point games and Michael Jordan had five.

History will remember Klay Thompson scoring 60 points in the Warriors’ blowout Monday night over the Pacers because he played only 29 minutes. It marked the first time in history that a player scored that many points in less than 30 minutes. Thompson made 21 of 33 shots, including eight of 14 from three-point range.

Chamberlain scored 100 points in 48 minutes, giving him 2.08 points for every minute played. Thompson scored 2.07 points for every minute he played against the Pacers before sitting out the entire final quarter. He scored his final bucket, a three-pointer, with 2:25 remaining in the third.

“That’s a feat that I’ll put money on will probably never be touched ever again in the history of basketball,” Stephen Curry told reporters in Oakland.

More impressive about Thompson’s big night was that it happened in the flow of the game. He made a few shots early and kept getting open against an Indiana team that played the previous night in Sacramento. The Warriors fed him because he couldn’t miss, not because he was their No. 1 option.

Thompson scored 37 points in one quarter on Jan. 24, 2015, when he had 52 points against Sacramento without playing in the fourth quarter. Thompson has been one of the premier perimeter shooters in the league. It was no secret, but he's also the third option behind Curry and Kevin Durant on most nights.

Because of his place on the team, not in spite of his place on the team, he had more opportunities early to get loose against the Pacers. Thompson reaffirmed he could destroy teams that left him alone. Nobody –not Chamberlain, Kobe, Steph or anybody else – has ever been in the zone quite like Thompson.

Not even the likes of Kobe Bryant settled into a zone as keen as Thompson's. (Getty Images).

Not even the likes of Kobe Bryant settled into a zone as keen as Thompson's. (Getty Images).

He scored 40 points in the first half and the other 20 in the third quarter. He hit from both wings. He drove the lane. He came off the wing, faked a drive and pulled up for mid-range jumpers. He banged threes. He scored on fast breaks. He played like he was putting himself through an offseason workout in an empty gym. It was ridiculous.

Thompson was capable of erupting given his shooting touch, but nobody saw Monday’s game coming. He had scored 30 points only once this season and had been held to fewer than 20 nine times in the first 20 games. In fact, some wondered if he would serve a greater purpose if he came off the bench.

Every player who scored 60 points in a game also was his team’s primary option in the offense. Chamberlain’s teams fed him the ball. He took 63 shots and made 28 free throws in his 100-point game. He averaged more than 37 points and 24 rebounds per game in each of his first four seasons, so scoring 60 wasn’t breaking news.

Jordan and Bryant led their teams in scoring. David Robinson was the key figure in the Spurs’ lineup during his prime. Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards in scoring for two seasons including 2006-07, when he dropped 60 on the Lakers. Tom Chambers averaged a career-high 27.2 points in 1989-90, when he had 60 against Seattle.

And let’s not forget Joe Fulks, who led the NBA in scoring for two seasons while assaulting teams that dared to leave him open for his set shot. He averaged a career-best 26 points per game in 1948-49, when he made 27 of 43 attempts and scored 63 points against the Indianapolis Jets.

Thompson has averaged 18.6 points per game in his career while shooting 45.1 percent from the floor and hitting 41.8 percent of his threes. The performance Monday was a departure. He made 63 percent of his field goals and 61 percent from three-point land. He attempted more than 21 shots from the first time all season.

He did it all in 29 minutes, a rare achievement indeed.

Unhappy Valley

The NCAA made the right move when implementing the College Football Playoff, thus replacing an archaic practice in which football writers and not football players determined the national champion. Titles should be won on the field, not in the press box.

Fans were kidding themselves, however, if they believed the new system, in which a committee determines the top four teams to play for the title, would end controversy. It simply redirected arguments toward the fifth-best team getting overlooked.

You could practically hear chants from Happy Valley – "We're No. 4! – when Penn State was left out this season after beating Ohio State and winning the Big 10 title game. Ohio State earned the No. 3 seed and will play Clemson. Top-ranked Alabama will play (and pound) Washington in the other semifinal.

The committee picked the right teams. Alabama (13-0) and Clemson (12-1) were no-brainers. Ohio State’s 24-21 loss to Penn State came on the road on a blocked field that was returned for a touchdown. Penn State lost to Michigan by 39 points, and Ohio State beat Michigan.

Saquon Barkley and the Penn State Nittany Lions came back to Earth when the College Football Playoff spots were announced. (Getty Images)

Saquon Barkley and the Penn State Nittany Lions came back to Earth when the College Football Playoff spots were announced. (Getty Images)

Penn State also lost to Pitt, which lost to Miami, which lost to Notre Dame, which lost to Navy, which lost to … you get the idea. Washington’s only loss came to USC. The committee couldn’t include Penn State with two losses, and have two Big 10 teams, and exclude Washington with one loss.

Of course, the decision restarted talk about expanding the playoff system to eight teams. If it happens, and it should, look for the No. 9 team to feel snubbed. Penn State will play USC in the Rose Bowl. Considering where the program had been in recent years, it’s a victory. The outcome also could offer insight into Washington.

For Sale

The Red Sox acquired the left-hander they coveted when trading for Chris Sale, but Boston may someday regret it. Lost in the deal were two promising prospects who could have been very valuable to the Rex Sox in three years or less. They also gave up two other prospects to be named later.

Yoan Moncada, named top prospect by Baseball America last summer, is a 21-year-old Cuban who received a $31.5 million signing bonus. In 187 games in the minor leagues, he batted .287, had 23 homers, 50 doubles, nine triples and 100 RBIs. He also has good size (6-2, 205) and can play anywhere in the infield.

Did the Red Sox pay too high a price for Chris Sale? (Getty Images)

Did the Red Sox pay too high a price for Chris Sale? (Getty Images)

Check back after he gets more seasoning and Dustin Pedroia starts showing signs of age. Pedroia, still productive at age 33, has five years and $70 million left on his contract.

Michael Kopech, 20, was used as a starter in the minors but projects as a closer once he gains full control over his fastball and develops another pitch. His fastball was routinely clocked at 100 mph last season, topping at 105 mph. The right-hander was a first-round draft pick out of high school in 2014.

It’s nothing against Sale, who has the second-best ERA and second-most strikeouts behind Clayton Kershaw over the past five years. He dominated the A.L. East last season with a 6-0 record and 1.55 ERA. He has never had an ERA higher than 3.50 in seven years in the big leagues. But it could change at Fenway Park, which for generations has been unkind to lefties.

Playing the percentages

If quarterback is the second-most important position sports behind goaltenders, shouldn’t the Saints be marching to the playoffs more often?

New Orleans is headed for its third straight season without a postseason even though quarterback Drew Brees is leading the league in passing yards (3,913), completions (357) and touchdowns (30). The Saints have struggled to a 5-7 record.

Brees has completed better than 70 percent of his passes in seven straight games, one shy of Joe Montana’s record. New Orleans has a 3-4 record during that span. Brees has completed 71.4 percent this season and is on pace to break his own record.

The plight of Drew Brees is proof that an accomplished quarterback doesn't necessarily guarantee team success. (Getty Images)

The plight of Drew Brees is proof that an accomplished quarterback doesn't necessarily guarantee team success. (Getty Images)

In fact, he already has the two highest completion percentages in NFL history, connecting on 71.2 percent in 2008 and 70.6 percent in 2011. Only four quarterbacks have completed 70 percent for a full season: Brees, Ken Anderson (1982), Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994).

Brees threw a touchdown pass at home in an NFL-record 60 straight games before his streak was snapped Sunday in a 28-13 loss to the Lions.

Keeping tabs

UB played well in defeat against St. Bonaventure and should contend for another Mid-American Conference title this season, but imagine where they would be if they kept players who passed through the program.

Shannon Evans and transfer Torian Graham are playing well this season after following coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State. Evans was averaging 17.2 points and 4.6 assists. Graham, who attended UB but never played a game, is the second-leading scorer at 17.4 points per game.

Both would be seniors this year. Lamonte Bearden would be playing his junior season if he didn’t leave the school and remained eligible. UB has been fine without them and could still reach the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season.


Newsday sports writer (and former News intern and UB grad) Owen O’Brien while the Jets were getting demolished at home by the Colts: “I feel bad for those Jets fans that paid $5 on the secondary market for this game. They got ripped off.”

Stats Inc.

22 – Career games in which Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each made five or more three-pointers. No other tandem accomplished that feat more than four times.

Brett and Bobby Hull comprise one of three father-son tandems to score at least 200 NHL goals apiece. (Getty Images)

Brett and Bobby Hull comprise one of three father-son tandems to score at least 200 NHL goals apiece. (Getty Images)

3 – Father-son pairings in which each scored 200 NHL goals after Alex Steen netted his 200th and joined his father, Thomas. The others are Bobby and Brett Hull and J.P. and Zach Parise.

0 – Single-digit jersey numbers that will remain in circulation after the Yankees retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 in May.

Extra Points

Can someone please tell me why the Rams gave coach Jeff Fisher a contract extension? Fisher has clinched his seventh straight season without a winning record, going back to his days with the Titans. He’s one win from tying Dan Reeves record for most career losses in the NFL.

Add Knicks center Joakim Noah to the list of NBA players who support Cavs star LeBron James, who has refused to stay in hotels owned by president-elect Donald Trump. “Stick to your principles,” Noah told Daily News reporter Stefen Bondy. “Trump is our president. But that doesn't mean we have to stay in his hotel.”

C.J. Spiller is looking for a job after the Jets released him Tuesday. The Bills picked Spiller ninth overall in 2010. He rushed for 1,244 yards for them in 2012. It was his only 1,000-yard season and accounted for more than one-third of his career rushing total (3,451 yards). According to, he pocketed $29 million.



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