Brooklyn Nets’ D’Angelo Russell (1) gets between Orlando Magic’s Terrence Ross (31) and Bismack Biyombo (11) for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Maybe it’s the 3-ball. Perhaps it’s all about small ball.
Whatever the reasons, NBA teams had few problems putting the ball in the basket and piling up points through the first week of the regular season.
A third of the league is averaging 110 or more, and the Brooklyn Nets became the first team to score 115 in their first four games in 32 years — and they only won half of them, because they were giving up more than 120 a night.
The floor is open and offenses are flowing — with ease.
“The game has changed. Offense has changed in the last 10 years radically just because the players are getting better, they shoot the ball better, offense has opened up, 3-point line, everybody shoots now,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “So the offense has changed radically. Defense traditionally has not changed that much.”
It’s advantage offense in a big, entertaining fashion.
D’Antoni ran the NBA’s most potent offense when he was in Phoenix a decade ago, and in 2006-07 the Suns were the only team to average 110 for the season, finishing at 110.2.
That would have barely cracked the top 10 entering Tuesday’s play. The Nets — yes, the Nets — are leading the way, averaging 123.5 a night. The system of playing small and firing 3-pointers may have been sneered at then, but it’s practically becoming the norm now.
“It’s hard to keep your bigs in the game now, so there’s nobody tall at the rim anymore,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said. “I think that’s made offense a lot easier. It’s really just kind of a style of play and stylistically teams are playing with more shooting and more guards and more speed and less rim protection around the basket, so it’s definitely benefited the offense.”
He had Roy Hibbert in that role when he was in Indiana, and the Pacers rode their rugged defense toward the top of the Eastern Conference. Now, Vogel’s Magic have yielded 126 and 121 while splitting a pair of games against the Nets.
Brooklyn is the first team since the Lakers, Pacers and Pistons in 1985-86 to open with four straight 115-point games.
D’Antoni believes defenses will have to evolve because “they can’t keep up with the offense.”
That, NBA fans, is an understatement.
WEEK 1 MVP
Nobody has ever started an NBA season quite like Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He put up 147 points, 43 rebounds and 21 assists during the Bucks’ 3-1 start, stats that the NBA said had never been reached in a player’s first four games. He scored at least 30 points in every game, including a career-high 44 against Portland.
Antetokounmpo is also off to the best scoring start in Bucks history. Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 146 in 1970-71, when he won his first of two straight MVP awards.
Antetokounmpo might be on his way to one. The online sportsbook Bovada lowered his odds from 10 to 1 in the preseason to 5 to 2 Monday, listing the Greek player as its current MVP favorite.
Other things to watch around the league:
HOMECOMING WEEK: DeMarcus Cousins returns to Sacramento for the first time since his midseason trade to New Orleans last season when the Pelicans visit the Kings on Thursday. The next night, Paul Millsap is back in Atlanta for the first time since moving West to the Denver Nuggets over the summer.
MOVING ON UP: San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich needs four wins to pass Phil Jackson and move into sixth place of the NBA’s career list. Jackson had 1,155 victories in the regular season. Popovich has 1,152 entering the Spurs’ game in Miami on Wednesday.
GEORGE’S GUESTS: Paul George will see his old Indiana mates Wednesday when the Pacers visit Oklahoma City for the first time since surprisingly trading their All-Star forward in the summer.
BACKCOURT BATTLE: Two of the league’s best backcourts go head-to-head Friday when John Wall and Bradley Beal lead Washington into Oracle Arena to face Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia: 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists Monday in a 97-86 victory over Detroit. The rookie needed just four games for his first career triple-double.