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Art Garcia


Statistics show scoring fashionable again in NBA

By Art Garcia,
Posted Apr 13 2009 9:49AM

Kobe Bryant lit up the Madison Square Garden faithful with a 61-point explosion on Feb. 2. LeBron James offered an encore of 52 just two days later.

Also on James' resume this season are games of 55 and 51 points. NBA scoring leader Dwyane Wade has a couple of 50s in the books. Tony Parker topped out at 55 back in November. Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford and Kevin Martin have also hit the half-century mark this season.

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That's a total of 10 games of at least 50 points. The scoring binge isn't confined to just players. Teams have reached 140 points 10 times this season. The Suns returned to their roots and are responsible for four games on the list, including the top spot with 154 on March 15.

The Warriors, Kings, Clippers, Mavericks and Heat also reached 140. Dallas' resurgence this week includes a two-game total of 270 points, including an team-high 81-point half against Phoenix in a showdown with playoff implications.

Scoring is fashionable again. While some basketball purists may argue the new defensive rules implemented at the start of this decade have made it too easy to score, most agree the quality of the game is on an upswing.

The changes made to speed up the game and free up offenses by promoting more movement and space appear to working. Just look at Shaquille O'Neal, who at 37 is shooting the highest percentage (61.2) of this career. Since the start of the 2000-01 season, nearly every major offensive category has trended up.

That hardly means defensive-minded teams are at a competitive disadvantage. The stingiest team of the past decade, the Spurs, has won three titles since 2003. The Celtics' ability to guard, with Kevin Garnett as the anchor, helped end their two-decade championship drought last summer.

Here's a look at how offensive numbers have changed as the league has evolved with the new rules:

Field-goal percentage

00-01: 44.3
08-09: 45.9
The buzz: Even though teams are taking about nine more 3-pointers per game this season as opposed to eight years ago, the overall percentage of shots going down has continued to climb. This could suggest that players are taking better shots or getting more open looks.

3-point field-goal percentage

00-01: 35.4
08-09: 36.7
The buzz: One might think that chucking up more from beyond the arc would lead to lower percentages, but that hasn't been the case. Nearly 40 players this season are shooting at least 40 percent from downtown, with Warriors rookie Anthony Morrow leading the way at 47 percent.

Points per game

00-01: 94.8
08-09: 100.0
The buzz: This is the number pointed to more often than not by the experts and everyone else when discussing the on-court health of the NBA because it deals with, well, points. Teams are scoring 5.2 more points per game since the millennium flipped. Twelve teams are scoring in triple figures. When it comes to entertainment value, scoring more has to bode well.

Offensive rating

00-01: 103.0
08-09: 108.2
The buzz: This is a number pointed to be stats geeks, err, aficionados. The rating is defined as points per every 100 possessions. Again, teams have become more efficient running their offense as they become more comfortable with or better exploit the rules.

Effective field-goal percentage

00-01: 47.3
08-09: 50.0
The buzz: Another function of efficiency, the effective percentage adjusts the value given a 3-pointer in scoring over a regular field goal. For example: A player who shoots 4-for-10 with two 3-pointers scores 10, which is the same as someone shooting 5-for-10 without a 3. The first player scored the same amount with one less made shot. Since more 3-pointers are being shot and they're being shot at a better rate, the effective percentage is up.


00-01: 91.3
08-09: 91.7
The buzz: This is an estimate of a team's number of possessions per 48 minutes. The lack of a sizable increase here does reinforce the notion that the above numbers aren't inflated due to more possessions.

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