The NFL is not the only professional sport that has seen a major increase in scoring.
The NBA, in its first week of the new season, has witnessed a major surge in scoring compared to last season. Through the first 48 games this season there have been 31 games that have gone over the Total.
For the 2017-18 regular season, the average NBA game produces a total of 211.5 points ignoring points scored in overtime. Through the first 48 games this season that average is up by slightly more than six percent, to 224.8 total points per game. Now 48 games is a very small sample size – less than four percent of the season. But the increase in scoring is likely to continue throughout the season due to one very significant rules change adopted prior to the start of the new season.
That rules change involves the treatment of the shot clock following an offensive rebound. In the past, the clock was reset to give the rebounding team a full 24 seconds in which to attempt its next shot. Now, the clock will be reset to just 14 seconds, lopping a full 10 seconds from the time a shot attempt will have to be taken. In the past it was not uncommon for the team that just secured its own rebound to reset its offense and dribble around for eight to 10 seconds before employing its offensive strategy.
So far, the change seems to have the desired effect with more shots being attempted and less idle time in which virtually no meaningful action takes place. Some have surmised the increasing popularity of fantasy sports was behind the rules change in addition to the recognition that fans, in general, want more offense. Any influence of the expanding sports betting culture may have been a secondary influence but this season should be one of the highest scoring seasons in a quarter century if the early trends continue.
Here are some thoughts on a trio of games this weekend.
Warriors at Knicks (Friday): The defending NBA champs make their annual trip to what has long been considered the “Mecca of Basketball,” Madison Square Garden, but the venue has been anything but a basketball palace given the play of its tenants, the Knicks, for more than a decade. This is already a challenge with star Kristaps Porzingis potentially missing the entire season due to injury. Still, there are shooters on this team which, combined with the firepower of the Warriors and their pace of play, is suggestive of a higher-than-expected scoring game. The teams combined for 235 and 236 total points in their two meetings last season. Eeven with the new rules designed to increase scoring, the inflated Total (perhaps in the low 230’s) may not be high enough. OVER
Lakers at Spurs (Saturday): These teams played Monday night in Los Angeles with the Spurs winning in overtime 143-142 and denying the Lakers their first win in the LeBron James era. All three of the Lakers’ losses have been by single digits and the team figures to improve as the gelling process takes place and James becomes somewhat of a mentor to his new, younger teammates. San Antonio is a team that has been on a slow decline over the past few seasons, effectively beginning with the retirement of soon to be Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. Kawhi Leonard is now with Toronto (although he missed virtually all of last season with the Spurs) and longtime key cog Manu Ginobili has retired.
Last season marked the first time this century the Spurs won less than 50 games (47). DeMar DeRozan arrives from Toronto and there still is plenty of talent on the roster but it will take time for this version of the Spurs to gel as well. LeBron’s leadership will be instrumental in aiding the gelling process for the Lakers and this quick turnaround opportunity for revenge can be used as a teaching point. An outright upset might occur, but the points will certainly have appeal. LAKERS
Wizards at Clippers (Sunday): Washington is projected to be a lower tiered Playoff team in the East whereas the Clippers are projected by most to miss the Playoffs entirely in the West. Both teams have been major disappointments over the past half-dozen seasons as each is considered too have fallen well short of where their talented rosters projected.
The Clippers are in more of a rebuilding process than is Washington. Los Angeles split a pair of games recently, a loss to Oklahoma City and win over Houston, both of which are considered strong contenders to finish second to Golden State in the West. Washington opened its season with home losses to Miami and Toronto before earning its first win Monday night on the road in Portland. Both teams last played on Friday. The Clippers have the potential to show marked improvement as the season progresses but at this early stage the backcourt edge enjoyed by the visitors makes a better case for their support. WIZARDS