Stephen Curry, points, Atlanta Hawks

Offensive Explosion: Steph Curry’s Historic 60-Point Night On Feb. 3 Highlights Atlanta Hawks’ Defensive Woes In The NBA

While Steph Curry became only the 10th player in NBA history to put up 60 points in a game twice, he would probably have traded it for a win.

RIP to defense in the NBA. On a night when Steph Curry absolutely cooked the Atlanta Hawks, dropping a 60-piece family dinner off, it wasn’t enough for Golden State Warriors to win.

Most nights, the prevailing wisdom used to be, if you score 130 points, you’re going to win the game. However, seemingly due to the rules of the NBA being so heavily skewed toward offense, All-Star game quality defensive performances are becoming commonplace. As Sports Illustrated reported, while Steph Curry became just the tenth player in NBA history to put up 60 points in a game twice, he would probably trade it for a win. The long and short of the Warriors’ season was encapsulated by this game. Despite a stellar performance from one of the league’s all-time great players, the Warriors can’t get enough stops to produce wins.

The Warriors lost the game 134-141. In a February 2023 piece for The Guardian, Oren Weisfield questioned just what the actual limits are to this offensive explosion the NBA is currently having. It has reached the point where fans are largely nonplussed by the 70- and 71-point performances happening with alarming regularity. The idea that the league and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have been pushing is that offense sells tickets and leads to a better NBA product.

However, even coaches and players say that the sometimes cartoonish final scores, like the Hawks-Warriors tilt, are a problem.

Steve Kerr, the Warriors’ head coach, told the outlet, “I think maybe there’s been an overcorrection to what was happening 20 years ago. I played in the NBA finals [with the Spurs] in ‘03, so 20 years ago this June, and the final scores were like 72-65, and it was ugly. And I think the league did an amazing job of loosening up the game, creating more freedom.”

Kerr continued, “But I think we’ve just gone a little too far. I think that the rules have really been geared towards giving the offensive player the advantage. It’s become much more difficult to play defense in the NBA now.”

Chauncey Billups, former Detroit Pistons player and head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, is of a similar mind, telling The Guardian, “[Because of] the rules of the game, you can’t play physically to get stops or it’s a foul now. So we’ve got to kind of give way a lot of times to a lot of situations, or you will be either in foul trouble or guys shooting a free throw.”

Billups added, “It’s too tough [to defend] … the game is made for the offensive player. Today’s game was made for the offense.”

During a 2023 episode of “Podcast P,” Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers star who’s considered one of the game’s best defenders, described his distaste for how defense is dictated by the rules in today’s NBA.

“[Handchecking is] a foul now. It’s killing the game a little bit. Now we can’t be defenders. You can’t defend as well as we used to. You can get in the ball in pick-and-rolls, like you can be aggressive, you can be physical. [But] you can’t do none of that now. The offensive player has the advantage now,” George explained. “My first couple years in the league, you might get 60-70 possessions offensively. […] You had two bigs out there, so the game wasn’t fast. It was a half-court set game so it just wasn’t a lot of baskets to be gotten. Now, like there’s maybe six or seven guys on the team that’s shooting five, six threes.”

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