The 2020-21 Toronto Raptors are putting up scoring totals like never before in Raptors history. They've topped the 120-point mark in each of the last five games while averaging 126.4 points per game over the stretch. It's been a ridiculous stretch from a team that came into the season with major offensive question marks, but just how good is this Raptors offence?
The answer is a little bit complicated.
For one, NBA scoring is at a modern NBA high. Teams are averaging 111.8 points per game this season, up slightly from last year and the highest seen since the 1970s, according to Basketball-Reference, when rule changes were enacted to limit free throws and depress scoring.
From a per possession sense, scoring is at an all-time high with teams are averaging 111.5 points per 100 possessions, almost a full point high than last season, per Basketball-Reference.
A lot of that has to do with 3-point shooting. Not only are teams taking more 3-pointer than ever before in NBA history, but they're making a higher percentage of 3s than ever before. The league is shooting 36.9% from behind the arc, up over a full point from last season, the previous NBA high. Throughout the league, NBA front offices have begun to figure out just how valuable 3-point shooting is and players who can't shoot from deep have been almost entirely ostracized.
"I think the offensive aspect of the game, guys are just that much better, that much more skilled, that much more talented," Kyle Lowry said. "Damian Lillard, these guys are shooting the ball, Steph Curry, these guys are shooting the ball from a range that’s a very far distance and the game is changing. The game is always like evolving and I think just the talent and skill and work ethic is just continuously getting better."
It's created a dynamic where putting up 120 points on any given night doesn't even seem that special anymore. While Toronto is scoring 114.3 points per night this season, the Raptors are still surrendering 111.6 points per game, the most in franchise history. Their Defensive Rating of 111.3 points per 100 possessions is the worst in a decade.
Maybe this is just a phase. We're still only a third of the way through this truncated 72-game regular season and there's still time for defences to catch up, as Raptors coach Nick Nurse predicts it might.
"I just think that a lot of teams come into training camp and say ‘Ok, we’re really going to run this year’ and then they kind of settle in and start adding some more sets and defences start getting back a little better and then it just kind of settles in," Nurse said Wednesday night.
Yet for all the fanfare that comes with these high scoring games, needing 120 points to win a game doesn't seem very sustainable for the long term.
"It’s nice in a regular season but when the playoffs come things are a little bit different," Lowry said. "Our league is very offensive-minded right down but when it comes down to championship basketball, defense wins championships."
Eventually, things are going to slow down either in the regular season or when the playoffs tip-off. When they do, Toronto can't continue to rely on its newfound prolific offence to lead the way. The key will be refinding that defensive intensity that has been the difference-maker over the past two seasons.