With the possible exception of Taylor Swift, there can be too much of a good thing. For instance, have you watched an NBA game lately (“lately” being any time in the last decade)? There’s too much scoring.

Teams are averaging 115.4 points per game — the highest in 55 years. This is the continuation of a trend. Teams scored an average of 96 points per game only 13 years ago. All of which is what happens when players play defense like matadors and bomb away from anywhere inside the half-court line.

Last month’s NBA All-Star Game was a microcosm of the regular season, except on steroids. The final score was 211-186. That’s a ridiculous 397 points. If they had played only against air, they wouldn’t have scored more points, which ought to tell you about the state of NBA defenses.

In the 78-year history of the NBA, players have scored 60 or more points in a game only 90 times — 25 of them since 2015. If you subtract Wilt Chamberlain, a 7-footer who played in the 1960s when there were only about two dozen players that could match his height, that number is reduced to 58 times in nearly eight decades — with 43% of them occurring in the last 10 years.

Those performances don’t even raise an eyebrow anymore.

There are many reasons for all of the above. For one thing, there has been a steady increase in 3-point shooting. The Celtics are averaging 42 3-point shots per game, the Mavericks 40. This season, teams are taking an average of 35 3-point shots per game. About 40% of all field-goal attempts are taken from behind the arc. That ratio has increased steadily from about 4% in 1980, when the 3-point line was introduced.

Time to pull the plug on all-star games
Departed Jazzmen enjoying heady days with new teams

The only time it didn’t increase was from 1994-97, when the 3-point line was shortened from 23 feet, 9 inches to 22 feet, because the league was — get this irony — concerned about a drop in scoring. The line was returned to the original distance. The NBA game is all about the trey. Try to count how many times you see all five offensive players standing behind the 3-point line at the same time. Four of them look like they’re waiting for a bus.

In 2021, NBA.com reported, “The league-wide 3-point rate (the percentage of all field goal attempts that have come from beyond the arc) has increased in each of the last 10 seasons, rising from 22.2% in 2010-11 to 39.2% last season. And it’s increased more in the last five years than it did in the previous five.”

Writer John Schumann continued, “In that 2015-16 season, there were six teams that took at least 1/3 of their shots from 3-point range. Last season, 28 of the 30 teams did so, with the only teams under the 33.3% mark being the Washington Wizards (31.9%) and San Antonio Spurs (31.4%).”

It’s not just 3-pointers that are driving increased scoring. “I think it’s been an evolution over the last five or six years and some of it is (the) pace of play; everybody decided to play faster,” Kerr told KNBR radio a year ago. “Some of it is the influence of Steph (Curry) just shooting from where he does; now you’re seeing so many guys come across mid-court and pull up from the logo. That’s kind of common to see that in any NBA game now.”

And that has stretched defenses beyond their ability to contain the scoring (it doesn’t help that many players play defense only as an afterthought).

Kerr is right of course. In the last six years, the pace of play — average number of possessions per game — has been between 98-100. You’d have to go back 30 years to find a comparable stretch. From 1994-95 to 2014-15, there wasn’t a single season that produced a pace of play higher than 95. More possessions means more shooting and more scoring.

“I think a lot of it is the rules,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said in an interview with radio station KNBR. “The NBA has really slanted the rules towards the offensive player. You’re seeing the offensive guys really gain advantages in so many different situations. I think it’s become almost impossible to play defense in a lot of cases. The refs will tell you, ‘He wasn’t in legal guarding position,’ and you’re like, ‘Yeah, but he barreled over my guy.’ What is a legal guarding position if somebody just runs right through you?”

To wit: Look at what officials allowed James Harden to get away with for years. Defenses didn’t have a chance.

Observers tend to think high scoring means a better product for fans, but it’s gone too far; it’s devalued scoring. Fans know the difference between scoring against lazy defense and scoring that’s earned.

The league has catered to the offensive player, as Kerr suggested. In 2004, the league outlawed the use of hand-checking, which helped defenders to remain between their opponents and the basket. This has had a profound effect on the game. Since then, the league also has been quick to call so-called touch fouls, further allowing offensive players to move freely around the court.

The league has created its own problem, but whether the NBA decides to meddle with the game again or not remains to be seen.

Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden, right, looks past Washington Wizards guard Landry Shamet.
Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden, right, looks past Washington Wizards guard Landry Shamet during game Friday, March 1, 2024, in Los Angeles. | Ryan Sun, Associated Press