Saturday, January 24, 2015

Greatest Shooting Quarter in NBA History: Klay Thompson

The Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson last night had what I think can fairly be called the greatest single quarter of NBA shooting ever, as his team routed the visiting Sacramento Kings, 126-101. It's not just that Thompson set the Association record for most points in a quarter -- 37 in the third -- but how he did it.

He simply didn't miss. He hit all 9 three-pointers he tried, all 4 two-pointers, and both free throws. Based on this play-by-play sheet of the third quarter, I've graphed Thompson's shot sequence according to time left in the third quarter. You may click on the graphic to enlarge it.

As can be seen, Thompson didn't even begin his third-quarter scoring until 2:16 had elapsed (i.e., the 9:44 mark). Further, he scored 29 of the 37 points from the 6:03 mark in. Twenty-nine points in (roughly) six minutes would translate to 232 points in a 48-minute game! For the record, Thompson scored "only" 52 points on the night (including 11-of-15 from behind the arc). There were two short stretches (5:31, 4:56, and 4:18; 1:06 and 0:35) in which he was hitting a three approximately every 30 seconds.

Thompson entered the game with a three-point shooting percentage of .444 this season. The probability of a 9-for-9 quarter shooting threes would be .444 raised to the 9th power, which is .0007 or 7-in-10,000. However, we are asking this question after the fact, knowing the probability is likely to be very low. Using this binomial calculator, we can also examine the less extreme (although still post hoc) question of how likely a .444 shooter would be to hit 11 (or more) out of 15 three-point attempts in a game. The answer is .02 or 1-in-50.

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