If you’ve been following the NBA this season, you’ve noticed more scoring. Way more scoring. The point totals have been unbelievable and it’s not going to change any time soon. Here you might ask, what happened? Well, it’s the sum of many parts: faster pace, more foul calls, more free-throws taken and made, caused by “freedom of movement”, 14-second shot clock following offensive rebounds, along with more 3-pointers being taken (and made).
The offense is truly out of control across the league. Teams have been scoring north of 130, even 140, points in a game and – get this – still losing. How about 90+ points in the half, yes it already happened this season (the Warriors scored 92 points in a first half, a franchise record and the second-highest total for a first half in NBA history).
Field-goal attempts per game (88.9) are up for the eighth straight year. The league is on pace to set records for 3-pointers made and attempted for the seventh straight year. Last season teams averaged 106.3 points per game. That number is up to 110.5 this season, the highest average for a season since the 1984-85 season. This increase of 4.2 points, is the second-highest single-season increase the league has seen since 1970-71 (between 1998-99 and 1999-00, the average went from 91.6 to 97.5, +5.9). Ten teams are averaging 112 or more points per game, last season, only Golden State and Houston averaged more than 112 points.
Make no mistake, there is a revolution happening in front of us. Every team is on pace to average 100-plus points per game this season. That hasn’t happened in the history of the NBA. At 102.6 points per game, the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently averaging the fewest points per game in the league. Last season two teams failed to average 100+. Those teams were the Kings (98.8) and the Grizzlies (99.3).
Four seasons ago teams were reaching the 100-point mark 51.5 percent of the time. So far this season, that figure is at 81.3 percent. In the 349 games played through November 29, 328 have seen at least one team score 100 points. Last season, a team scored over 140 points in a game 13 times, it’s already happened 10 times this season.
Let’s explore more statistically baffling numbers. The season-high point total from last season, 148 was surpassed on the fourth day of the season by the New Orleans Pelicans (149 points), 10 days later Warriors matched Pelicans. Timberwolves scored 136 points in a non-overtime game and took the L, the first time that’s happened in the league since 1992. Spurs allowed 142 points (in an overtime game), the most points allowed by a San Antonio since 1990.
San Antonio have allowed 135-plus points four times this season, the most in the league. They entered the season having allowed 135 points in just two games in 22 previous seasons under coach Gregg Popovich. Celtics, Hawks, Bucks, and Warriors set franchise records in three-pointers made in a game. Last season the Pelicans led the league with a pace of 101.6 possessions a game. Four other teams were over 100. More teams were shooting transition threes. The game was faster and better executed. So far this season 22 is over 100.
Nobody even seems to care about defense and dunks (and threes) are exchanged regularly. Giannis Antetokounmpo now has 99 dunks through 21 games, if he continues at his current pace, he will finish the season with 381. League started recording dunks in the 2000-01 season and the league record is 269 (Dwight Howard in 2007-08).
Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela are also on pace to reach 300+ dunks this year. This is freedom of movement, dunk record in the 3-pointers era. Antetokounmpo’s dunks also helped Bucks became the first team ever to shoot over 60% from 2-point range for a whole month, finishing November with a 60.8 FG% on 2-pointers.
If we look at players it is even crazier. There have been as many 50-point games already this season (eight) as there were in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 combined. Previously, there has never been an NBA season that as many as four players had a 50-point game before December. No one will be shocked if 15 players do it this year, and as a reminder, the single-season record is 10.
This week the Warriors became the second team in NBA history to have three different players (Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson) record a 50-point game in a single season. The other is the 1961-62 Lakers (Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Rudy LaRusso).
Also this week James Harden scored 54 points, and Eric Gordon added 36 for the Rockets, while John Wall had 36, and Bradley Beal added 32. The two backcourts combined to score 158 points, the most combined points by both teams starting backcourts on record. It shattered the previous record of 140 points scored by the starting backcourts of the Trail Blazers and the Raptors in 2016 (Damian Lillard – 50, C.J. McCollum – 24, DeMar DeRozan – 38, and Kyle Lowry – 28).
The scoring revolution is the most exciting narrative this season. The whole league is involved and every one can watch one of their players had an amazing scoring night. Fans enjoy it, players enjoy it and the league loves it. It is crazy that it all started with a simple sentence: Three is more than two.
Statistics used courtesy of NBA/Stats and Basketball-Reference.