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The NBA’s scoring boom is still going strong

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2024 | 12:13 AM
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic

INDIANAPOLIS (AP):

There was a week in January unlike almost any other in NBA history. Joel Embiid scored 70 and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 62 one night, followed four days later by Luka Doncic scoring 73 and Devin Booker scoring 62.

That’s four 60-point games in five days — something the league hadn’t seen since 1962. There had been entire decades where the NBA didn’t see that many 60-point outings by players.

“That’s just where the state of the league is right now,” said the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis, one of the top contenders this season for defensive player of the year.

Defence wasn’t really played in the All-Star Game, which explains why the Eastern Conference scored a record 211 points and the game saw nearly 400 points combined on Sunday night. Points couldn’t have been easier to come by.

But in the regular season — although some might dispute this — defence does get played. And points just keep piling up anyway with the NBA on pace to see its highest-scoring season in more than 50 years with teams averaging more than 115 points per game, up about one per cent from last year and up a staggering 15.5 per cent from where it was a decade ago.

“It makes the layperson look back and say, what’s going on? In one year, did they get that much better or is it harder to defend or are they not playing defence?” Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers said. “And I can tell you the guys are playing defence. But it is harder to defend with the rules.”

Rivers, Minnesota coach Chris Finch and others in the league expect that the NBA will try to help defences next season by allowing them to do a little bit more. It has been discussed at the league level. What that means, nobody really knows for certain.

But many of the rule tweaks in recent years — giving offensive players more freedom of movement is the one most players cite — seem to have made the task of scoring a bit easier.

“I hate to say it,” Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell said, “but we’re really good at what we do.”

Boston’s Jaylen Brown said part of the problem is with how the media and others talk about the game. In his view, offence is all that anybody seems to tout.

“It kind of seems like it’s hard to guard anybody these days,” Brown said. “That’s why I give such respect to the ones who are committed to that side of the ball, because right now we just pay attention to the ones who can score the ball. Those are the ones who are considered our best players. We completely ignore defence like it’s not even a part of how good a player is.”

Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t see it that way. He and other NBA executives have insisted that the league wants competitive games and hasn’t prioritised huge offensive numbers.

Silver said that’s the feedback the league gets from fans as well.

“I think there’s a lot happening here, and I’ve talked to a lot of coaches and a lot of players about it. I think, first of all, the skill level is off the charts,” Silver said. “I think what we’re seeing is now in this league, every player at every position has to be able to shoot the basketball. You’re seeing this global pool of talent coming into the league, some of the best athletes in the world, who can, frankly, just shoot the lights out.”