No NBA team has crossed the 115 points per game barrier since 1991-92, when the Golden State Warriors chucked up 118.7 points per contest under Don Nelson. Last year’s Warriors squad, behind the stellar work of MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, put up 114.9 points per contest. This year’s model? It features Kevin Durant, and seems well on its way toward being the first team in a quarter-century to top that per-game milestone.
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According to one MVP candidate, they might have some company in that realm. Also, LeBron James is not the “MVP candidate” in question.
Indiana’s Paul George thinks his Pacers could top 115 points per game this season. Speaking in the minutes following a 113-performance in an exhibition game on Wednesday, George gave a shrug and a “why the heck not?” to the idea of setting the pace in the Eastern Conference.
“Everything was just free flow and we’re still trying to figure that out,” George said. “We’ve been so used to a set or calling of plays and now we’re getting that freedom. I think that’s going to take some time, but once we get it, we could easily be a 115-point team a night.”
On George’s side is the shift of the entire Pacers franchise. Though new coach Nate McMillan was known for his super-slow outfits in Seattle and Portland (a pace that didn’t stop teams in both ports from acting as some of the league’s most efficient offensive squads), he was still hired by Pacer president Larry Bird to encourage a smaller, high-possession style of basketball.
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The team, according to the Star, has been practicing with a 14-second shot clock in practice, encouraging players to make quick decisions in the half-court, while not wasting valuable second at the outset of a possession walking the ball up court.
That’s fine and dandy and, should things sustain past the initial “we want to push the ball this year”-ethos (submitted by all 30 NBA coaches in September and October) last into December, it will make for a watchable brand of ball in Indianapolis this year.
Still, the Pacers averaged 102.2 points per game last season, just above the league average, while ranking 11th in pace. The team ranked 25th out of 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency, though, and its main offseason acquisition is a typical, lumbering low post scoring center in Al Jefferson. New addition Jeff Teague, while an admirable point guard, is hardly Rickey Green when it comes to pushing the ball.
Worse, while a fast pace will result in a high points per game count, it hardly guarantees overall offensive success once the amount of possessions per game is racked up.
Until all this is sussed out, though, we’re happy to see the Pacers sticking with the plan. When Larry Bird wants you to run, your only response is to ask “how fast?”
(When he asks you to jump, you should try to sneak in some sly comment about clearing three times as much space off the floor as Larry did during his playing career. Before president Bird cuts you, of course.)
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