Scoring too low in the NBA? Blame the old Pistons ‘Bad Boys’: Local fan’s take

If you're an old-time NBA fan, similar to myself going back to the 1960s, you will notice how low the scoring has become in the modern game.

Opposing teams used to both regularly crack the 100-point mark. Nowadays, scores are in the nineties and even down in the eighties.

Blame the Detroit Pistons.

I always hated that my Pistons in 1989 and 1990, inspired by Isiah Thomas, embraced the "Bad Boys" moniker. This implied that they were dirty players. True enough, Bill Laimbeer could be placed in this category, while Rick Mahorn and Dennis Rodman had their moments. But for the most part, those Pistons simply busted their rear ends and played inspired team "help" defense, which was new to the NBA at that time. Coaches and their teams copied the Pistons during subsequent years and for a while, it seemed that rough play was spoiling the game, such as in several series between Pat Ewing and the New York Knicks versus Alonzo Mourning(notes) and the Miami Heat. When Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six championships, his dunks and clutch shots were publicized but he also was the league's best defender.

Fans started to argue that the modern players couldn't shoot accurately. This was a bogus criticism. Just look up the legendary Bob Cousy's career shooting percentage. It's 37.5 percent.

I'm one who believes better defense makes for better basketball. If you don't believe me, watch some ESPN Classic tapes of the old rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics. This is supposed to be the Golden Era, during which "Magic vs. Bird" elevated B-ball to a higher level. Those tapes indeed are fun to re-watch, but if we are honest, we will acknowledge that those teams did not play defense at the level we see today.

The Pistons were the first NBA team to play "D" with such intensity. If we look at college ball, the University of Michigan's Fab Five during the early 1990s were supposed to be hot shots and showboats, but they made two NCAA championship games in a row with their hustle on defense.

When we see that good defense can thwart players as gifted as Kobe Bryant(notes) and LeBron James(notes), we should celebrate the fact rather than criticizing.


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Updated Monday, Apr 25, 2011