Be careful what you wish for, NBA fans. You just might get it.
The 2017 NBA All-Star Game featured the highest cumulative total in the game's history: 374 points. And that comes after 369 last year.
We got what we wanted: Our favorite players scoring an astronomical rate. At least, we thought that's what we wanted. Instead, Monday morning feels empty. For three quarters, Reggie Miller promised fans that the All-Stars would try in the fourth quarter. They never did. Both sides coasted to the final buzzer.
Before you start calling on the league to mandate at the 2018 All-Star Game, realize this: The All-Star Game is actually reflective of the modern NBA.
The NBA is no longer a show-stopping, one-on-one, slam dunk-fest league. Look up and down the All-Star Game rosters: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas. The NBA has evolved. The 3-point shot is a focal point of youth basketball development. Getting to the free throw line is valued. Spreading the perimeter wins games.
— ThePostGame (@ThePostGame) February 20, 2017
Curry and Harden are beautiful to watch on a standard Thursday night. They've cracked the NBA code to be superstars from the outside. But on All-Star Sunday night? They're a snooze-fest.
Consider Curry, the two-time reigning MVP, and Harden, this season's frontrunner. Last year's game featured 139 3-pointers attempted. This year's game included a more modest 122. For reference, the 2004 and 2005 All-Star Games, where we'll mark the end of the previous era, each featured 46 3-point attempts. Of those 92 shots, 15 were attempted by Ray Allen.
In the past decade, the game has transformed for the better, with better spacing and more fluid ball movement, but this has depleted the intensity of the All-Star Game. The 2005 game was a 125-115 East victory with no team scoring more than 34 points in a quarter. The lowest either team scored in a quarter on Sunday was 39. The players were different. Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, young LeBron James and young Dwyane Wade did not make the All-Star Game by chucking triples. They got to the rim, one-on-one.
Iverson won All-Star Game MVPs in 2001 and 2005. He took one 3-pointer in those two games combined.
James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George deserve some credit. These swingmen still have the slashing ability that used to make the All-Star Game great. They showed glimpses Sunday, especially Antetokounmpo, who, playing in his first All-Star Game, dropped 30 points and took only one 3-pointer.
— pat muldowney (@patmuldowney) February 20, 2017
Big men did big men things on Sunday. Anthony Davis, who set the NBA All-Star Game record with 52 points and won the MVP Award, scored all 26 of his field goals from inside the 3-point line. With that said, he took four 3-pointers and missed all four. Kevin Garnett played in 14 All-Star Games. He took four 3-pointers in his entire All-Star Game career.
Remember, the Warriors scored 144 points in a real NBA game a few weeks ago. The All-Star Game scoring is connected with the NBA scoring Renaissance. And don't blame defense. Offenses are more dynamic than any time in NBA history. Youth players have long been taught to force opponents into "low-percentage shots." Fortunately for NBA fans, those percentages are getting higher in regular-season NBA games.
Unfortunately for the All-Star Game, this means players have no reason to pass up an open 3-pointer to bang in the lane for a shot with a similar percentage. Even Russell Westbrook is a victim of this. Westbrook won an MVP in New York in 2015, putting up 41 points on just nine 3-point attempts. He won another MVP a season ago, but threw up 17 3-pointers. This year, he clocked 41 points on 13 3-point attempts.
The root of the problem is this: NBA superstars are no longer used to contact and one-on-one drives. They're more comfortable creating jump shots off the dribble or whipping the ball around the perimeter. This has created a pretty product to watch when two teams are going full speed. But in an All-Star showcase, it's taken the electricity out of the building.
75 combined dunks tonight (57 in last year's All-Star Game); the most combined dunks in a regular-season game this year is 19
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 20, 2017
I'd guess most of those dunks originated in the paint or were put-backs. I'd love to see how many originated on drives from the 3-point line.
A solution is not easy. How does Adam Silver incentivize his players to play outside of their comfort zone in an exhibition? Maybe take away the 3-point line? Add more players to the roster to let the stars exert more energy in short bursts? Provide monetary incentives to top performers?
The watchability of the NBA has improved with players spreading the floor rather than getting stuffed in the paint all night. It just so happens that's not the best product for our rebellious, once-a-season All-Star Game fill.
-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.