Empty in the stands, record points

Doncic and Curry, at the Dallas-Golden State game, Feb.6.

Stephen Curry was on January 3 the spitting image of a sportsman in his splendor. “I feel like I’m 20 years old. Maybe I am fooling myself … but I am not worried that soon I may suffer a slump, “said the 32-year-old guard. That day, he scored 62 points, broke his best scoring mark in a league in which he has competed for 11 1/2 years, and his team, Golden State, beat Portland 137-122. “What a performance!” Exclaimed his coach, Steve Kerr; “It is a privilege to train him, a blessing that he continues to lead us.”

Three days later, Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal scored 60 points against the Sixers, the best record in his nine NBA seasons. He and Curry are the greatest exponents of the series of players who are breaking their best records this season. Sergio Scariolo, the Spain coach and Nick Nurse’s assistant coach at Toronto Raptors, analyzes: “You always have to start with talent. Sometimes we don’t realize how much talent NBA players have. And when it comes to scoring points, talent is the first argument ”. Other considerations help explain the emergence of brands. Some are outstripping them, like the Raptors guard-guard Fred VanVleet, who on February 2 smashed his record of 36 points in the previous four years with the 54 he scored against Orlando.

“It is clear that without an audience or with very little audience, with 3,000 spectators in pavilions for 25,000, there is much less pressure. It has been proven that without an audience you play looser, taking more risks, with less fear of failing ”, Scariolo points out. “That is a fact that we already realized perfectly in the bubble [en Orlando donde se jugó el tramo final de la pasada temporada] and that continues like this ”.

Jordi Fernández, Mike Malone’s assistant coach in the Denver Nuggets, attributes the 50 points with which Jokic broke his record on February 6 against Sacramento to the extraordinary quality of the Serbian center who turns 26 next week, but also to the fact that that day it had to multiply because of the absences. “We have had many casualties and, when you have the opportunity to win a game away from home [Denver acabó perdiendo ese día ante Sacramento por 119-114] and you have your best player well, sometimes it must be lavished [Jokic lanzó 33 tiros de campo, el doble de su media este curso]. Perhaps the same thing happened to Golden State, also with many casualties, the days that Curry had 62 and 57 points. It is a season in which there are many casualties, some due to covid, others because a player has had a close contact or also because we have had very little rest. We do not squeeze the touched players because they could still be out longer. I don’t know if this can be generalized as an explanation to those records, but in the end, we are talking about two of the best players in the league, the ones who make a difference ”.

Curry, Beal, VanVleet and Jokic top the extensive list of players who are getting their touchdown caps this season: Charlotte’s Hayward (44 points vs. Atlanta); Morant, of Memphis (44 against San Antonio); Orlando’s Vucevic (43 against Chicago); Fox, of Sacramento (43 against New Orleans); Dallas’ Doncic (matched his with 42 points, against Golden State); Jaylen Brown, of the Celtics (42 against Memphis); Rozier, of Charlotte (42 against Cleveland); Maxey, of the Sixers (39 against Denver) and Coby White, of Chicago (36 against Sacramento), are the most prominent.

Scariolo points out another factor to take into account derived from a more compressed calendar and an activity conditioned by the effects of the pandemic. “It is more difficult to prepare for the matches,” says the Italian coach. “Often we don’t know who we have or who we are going to face. They have eliminated the training sessions on the mornings of the game, which were sometimes the only ones where we could prepare it. If tactical preparation disappears, which in the NBA during the regular season is not very rigid, that is detrimental to defenses, and if defenses are weakened, attacks proliferate ”.

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