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NBA’s offensive boom carried into 2017 playoffs, especially Finals

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In Games 2-5 of the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers scored 113, 113, 137 and 120 points.

They went 1-3.

Cleveland was at the center of an offensive explosion (defensive implosion?) in the 2017 NBA playoffs. After the league posted its highest regular-season offensive rating on record this year (108.8), the scoring rate increased in the postseason – to a whopping 111.3 points per 100 possessions. (All using Basketball-Reference)

The Cavs’ playoff offensive rating was a record 120.3. The Warriors’ playoff offensive ranking, 119.0 ranks third all-time. (The 1987 Lakers, who scored 119.9 points per 100 possessions in the postseason, are sandwiched between.)

Here are the leaders in playoff offensive ranking since 1974, when the league first tracked turnovers (necessary for calculating offensive rating):

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Understandably, the combined offensive rating in the Finals – 118.0 (121 by Golden State, 114.6 by Cleveland) – was the highest on record.

Here are the combined offensive ratings in every Finals since 1984 (as far back as Basketball-Reference has data):

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With Cleveland and Golden State advancing to the Finals, the result was the NBA’s highest playoff offensive rating in 25 years. Here’s regular-season (blue) and postseason (orange) offensive ratings every season:

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This wasn’t just a product of better offensive teams just happening to make the playoffs and advancing further then better defensive teams. Using teams’ regular-season offensive and defensive ratings and their number of postseason possessions, the projected playoff-wide offensive rating this year was just 109.4 – higher than the regular-season mark (108.8), but well below the actual playoff rate (111.3).

Despite a perception that defense cranks up in the postseason, teams just scored far more efficiently in the playoffs. The 2017 postseason continued a trend, just accelerating it into overdrive at a time of year when a ceiling on scoring was long thought to be more limited.

The biggest driver: 3-pointers. Players are better than ever at shooting from beyond the arc, and teams are increasingly leaning on outside shooting – even, when necessary, at the expensive of defense. The shift has come both schematically (players spotting up in the corners – ideal location for shooting 3s – not as well-positioned to get back defensively) and strategically (with teams prioritizing 3-point shooting over defense when allocating minutes).

The question: Did a fluky Cleveland team take the 2017 to a new offensive place, or are the Cavs trendsetters? Teams won’t purposefully emulate the Cavaliers’ bad defensive habits, but this was a roster filled with better shooters than defenders around LeBron James. Cleveland even carved up Golden State, which has proven over the last few years to be an elite defensive team. (The Warriors are also elite offensively, which is why they still outpaced the Cavs’ onslaught.)

Build a roster in the mold of the Cavaliers – heavy on 3-point shooters, light on natural defenders – preach more defensive commitment and communication, and a team might have something special. Will it work without LeBron’s attention-drawing and passing? Perhaps not.

But there were hints all around the 2017 playoffs that teams can bank on scoring over defense, even in the most high-pressure games, more than previously thought.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.

Report: Clippers hiring ex-Cavaliers executive Trent Redden

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The power dynamics within the Clippers are shifting, and the ground apparently hasn’t settled yet.

Doc Rivers has been stripped of his presidency. Jerry West became a consultant. Lawrence Frank now holds the most prestigious title in the front office, and newly hired Michael Winger will report to him. Also falling under Frank in the organizational chart? Trent Redden.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers executive Trent Redden will join the LA Clippers’ front-office staff as assistant general manager, league sources said on Monday.

Redden was ousted in Cleveland with David Griffin. He’ll help the Clippers simply by providing another capable executive. They’ve long needed to add front-office employees (and pay for them).

But Redden also exacerbates the issue of Frank’s underlings having far more front-office experience than him. As the Clippers try to establish their new setup, we’ll see whether that creates complications.

Warriors’ Steve Kerr: I expect to coach all season and for many years ahead

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr has missed significant time the last two seasons due to complications from back surgery.

Could those issues derail his career?

Kerr, via Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr says in a no-nonsense tone. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.”

On the most basic level, it’d be good if Kerr feels well enough to coach. The headaches sound miserable, regardless of his job.

But it’d also be ideal if the NBA didn’t lose one of its best coaches just as he’s getting started. The 51-year-old Kerr might wind up the greatest coach of all time. Obviously that’s a long way off, but he has that potential – health permitting.