The Public Wants Less Scoring
There's a platonic basketball ideal out there
The Lakers-Timberwolves play-in game was some nasty, broken basketball. While the regular-season NBA product has been increasingly defined by all these teams waging a sort of frictionless offensive assault, this Lakers win was a nervous, stilted affair, one in which the teams combined for 40 turnovers.
It was also suspenseful and captivating. While much of NBA Twitter processed the mistake-ridden game like disappointed film critics, I found myself totally immersed in its twists and turns. And I don’t think I’m alone here. Playoff basketball, which often grinds down to a slower pace with less efficient scoring, isn’t just a better product due to the high stakes. It’s also better because defense asserts itself as an equal. That’s partially how a “worse” game produces especially compelling play.
I’d argue that Lakers vs. Wolves was a throwback to when individual possessions felt highly contested, which is actually what fans want when tuning in, postseason or otherwise. The idea that people just love scoring, to the exclusion of other factors, has been an overreading of the data by those running professional basketball. Fans want friction, just as much as they want points.
Under commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA implemented rules specifically designed for a friction free, defense-last style. Or, as ESPN framed Silver’s victory lap on this matter back in 2018, “Adam Silver upbeat on NBA's scoring surge, cites rule changes.”