NBA scoring is up. Way up.
At this pace, that won’t change anytime soon.
Through the first eight full days of this season — obviously, a small sample size — NBA teams are averaging 113.4 points per game, the highest rate in 49 years. Teams are averaging 91 field-goal attempts per game, up five shots from last season, and the league is on an early pace to set records for 3-pointers made and attempted for the seventh straight year.
“I think guys are just getting more comfortable offensively in their games,” Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry said. “I think everyone is just expanding, with the centers shooting 3s. I think that just opens the floor up a lot more. A lot more shots are going up, a lot more freedom of movement. It makes it more of an exciting game.”
As recently as the 2014-15 season, teams were reaching the 100-point mark 51.5 percent of the time.
So far this season, that figure is at 88.2 percent.
And there are no shortage of other statistically baffling numbers out there in the early part of this season.
In the 51 games played through Tuesday, 49 have seen at least one team score 100 points. The losing team has wound up scoring 100 or more points a staggering 80.4 percent of the time. Minnesota scored 136 points in a non-overtime game and lost — the first time that’s happened in the NBA since 1992.
New Orleans posted a league-high 149 points against Sacramento last week. San Antonio scored 143, albeit in an overtime game, against the Los Angeles Lakers, the most by the Spurs in more than eight years. (The Spurs also allowed 142 points in the same game, the most points allowed by a San Antonio team since 1990, long before Gregg Popovich’s coaching tenure there started.)
“The whole dynamic of the game has changed,” said Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, in remarks published by the San Antonio Express-News. “The rules force you to play at a high speed. Tempo is getting pushed. So many 3s are being shot.”
Perhaps the most baffling stat is this: Entering Wednesday, LeBron James and the Lakers ranked No. 2 in the NBA in scoring at 125.3 points per game, and were off to an 0-3 start anyway.
“We’ve played well enough to win … and well enough to lose,” James said. “If that makes any sense.”
In this wide-open NBA, that might make perfect sense.
The league’s officials are emphasizing what the NBA calls “freedom of movement” this season, an effort to clean up some of the extra contact that happens away from the ball and impedes offensive players from cutting and getting open. And it’s no surprise that the tighter whistles are an advantage to the offense, though they are hardly the only reason why scoring is soaring.
NBA teams were called for 19.9 fouls per game last season; this season, it’s up to 23.1. Free throws taken and made are also up slightly, though nowhere near enough to account for the entire spike in scoring.
It’s the sum of many parts — faster pace, perhaps caused in part by that extra freedom of movement, along with more 3s being taken.
And again, it’s early. Players will likely fatigue over the course of the season, and at some point defenses will adjust and catch up somewhat.
“I’m sure some of this will level off,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “How much it’ll level off, I don’t know. It’s just about developing a system, a way of playing, an identity defensively that’s important to you.”