Stephen Curry’s 60-point performance raises the question: Has NBA scoring become too easy?

Stephen Curry’s 60-point performance raises the question: Has NBA scoring become too easy?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Atlanta Hawks
USATSI

It the latest installment of “it’s too easy to score in the NBA,” Stephen Curry hung 60 points on the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and the Warriors still lost, 141-134, in overtime.

That’s not taking anything away from Curry, who remains an otherworldly scorer when he gets going, but come on. Defenders just don’t have an honest chance anymore. The stars are too skilled to also have the benefit of a one-sided rule book and officials who are played like puppets every night.

And before you start saying Curry only shot six free throws, it’s not just about the foul baiting. Yes, that makes Curry’s huge performances more enjoyable than some of these guys, but it’s the threat of these fouls that keeps guys from defending with any sort of force in the first place. You can hardly contest a 3-point shot anymore. This landing-space business is nonsense.

Sixty points is supposed to be a monumental thing. It’s happened five times in the past two weeks. First, Joel Embiid went for 70 and Karl-Anthony Towns 62 on the same night. Three days later, Luka Doncic (73) and Devin Booker (62) did the same thing. Now Curry gets 60, joining Kobe Bryant, who hit the 60-point mark in his final NBA game, as the only players in history to do so at 35 years or older.

Throw in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 64 against Indiana in mid-December, and that’s six 60-point games, the most in any season in NBA history and there are still two months to play.

Last season, Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell went for 71 each in consecutive months. We’ve now had two different 70-point scorers in two straight seasons. That’s also never happened before.

You would think that scoring 60 points would at least ensure a win, but these days, that’s what it takes just to stay in a game with everyone lighting up scoreboards. Towns, Booker and now Curry all lost despite the 60 spot. That’s only happened to 11 players in history, and again, three of them have come in the past two weeks. Hell, the Warriors even lost Curry’s minutes. Dude scored 60 and couldn’t even register a positive point differential.

All of this said, I don’t want to lose sight of how special Curry has long been and continues to be. This is one of the three or four best scorers in history. He now has 14 career 50-point games, the same number as LeBron James, the leading scorer in NBA history.

Curry has now scored at least 50 eight times after the age of 30, passing Wilt Chamberlain for the most all-time. On Saturday, Curry fell two points shy of his career-high 62 and is now the 10th player to record multiple 60-point games.

Wilt? Jordan? Not bad company.

Curry finished 22 of 38 from the field, 10 of 23 from 3, and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. He is the third player in history, joining Lillard and Towns, to score at least 60 and make at least 10 3-pointers in a game. This is the 23rd time Curry has made at least 10 3s in a game, by far an NBA record. Next on the list is Klay Thompson with nine.

Curry could’ve used a little help from Thompson on Friday. His splash brother finished with 10 points on a dismal 4-of-19 shooting. Take out Curry, and the rest of the Warriors’ starters combined for 35 points. Not great.

So the Warriors continue to drag their way through this season. With the trade deadline approaching Thursday, they are 21-25. If the postseason were to start today, they wouldn’t even qualify for the Play-In tournament.

In that way, these Curry performances, and I suppose the recent rise of Jonathan Kuminga, are all Warriors fans have to cling to at the moment. Still, even with Curry’s particular brand of flair, 60 points just doesn’t feel like it used to. I’ll say it again, scoring is too easy for players this skilled with the added benefit of a rule book that is enforced by puppet officials and that all but cripples defenders.

It’s actually hurting the perception of these great scorers, too. Nobody even cares when a guy scores 40 anymore. Fifty might be worth paying attention to, which is to say check out the highlights. Sixty is still historic, but relative to what it used to be, it’s damn near a footnote.

Everyone wants to see offense. That the league is prioritizing scoring and the showcasing of all this skill is smart. It’s more fun to watch that grind-it-out basketball. But there is a point of diminishing returns, and it’s hard to argue that we haven’t gone past it. More than anyone, fans wants competition first. They want their historic performances to feel earned.

That’s not to say Curry scoring 60, or Booker and Towns getting 62, or Giannis getting 64, or Embiid 70, or Luka 73, isn’t earned. Or impressive. It’s certainly all of that. Those numbers will always be impressive. But it’s a matter of how impressive. If you could put a number on that, it would surely be shrinking.

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