Around The NBA: Pace and space leading to plenty of big early scoring numbers

Scoring is up slightly so far this NBA season.

Scorers, however, are everywhere to be found once again.

As the season enters its fourth week, there are 24 players averaging a minimum of 20 points per game, including 11 who've never averaged that many over a full season.

And all this comes after a year where only nine players averaged 20, the smallest number of big-time scorers since there was only eight in 1964-65.

Miami forward Shane Battier thinks teams simply saw what carried the Heat and San Antonio to the NBA Finals last season and adopted some of those principles. The Heat call it pace-and-space, and it obviously works, given that the past two Larry O'Brien trophies are residing in Miami.

"A lot more space seems to be created on the offensive end," Battier said. "It's no secret — you create space, give really talented people room to operate, they're going to produce. I think it's a trend going in that direction."

The names at the very top of the scoring list are the usual suspects, the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love and James Harden.

Others aren't exactly surprising, such as Indiana's Paul George, Golden State's Klay Thompson and Portland's Damian Lillard, all of whom are looking as if they'll be stars for years to come.

But if "surprises" are what you seek, take a gander someone such as Orlando guard Arron Afflalo — a seventh-year player whose average has gone up every season — or maybe Eric Bledsoe, who leads Phoenix in scoring.

Bledsoe never averaged more than 8.5 points in three years with the Los Angeles Clippers, mainly as a reserve. He's a starter now with the Suns and is averaging 20.4 points in the early going.

So pace and space aren't the only reasons for scoring surges. Sometimes, opportunity just knocks.


Here are five things to watch this week:

LEBRON'S NUMBERS: Heat star LeBron James says he's been bothered by a bad back and is just now starting to feel a spring in his step. His numbers wouldn't suggest anything hurts. He's shooting 64.7 percent so far in November, on pace for the best full month of his career (not counting partial-month schedules of October and April).

IS WEST BEST?: Western Conference teams are 31-16 against Eastern Conference foes this season, and West teams are off to a combined 83-68 start, compared with 66-81 by East clubs.

HELLO AGAIN: Playoff rivals in each of the past two seasons, Memphis visits the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. The teams have played 20 times since Jan. 26, 2012, with the Clippers going 11-9 but the Grizzlies winning the past four — all in last year's opening playoff round.

KOBE WATCH: If Kobe Bryant can put himself through practice, you know he'll be trading in game-night suits for game-night sneakers before long. The Lakers' star returned to practice over the weekend, seven months after tearing his Achilles' and needing surgery. Kobe Watch, commence.

PACERS IN NY: The Knicks have been awful at home. Indiana has been fantastic everywhere. If you're going to watch only one of the 13 NBA games on Wednesday, Knicks-Pacers might be a good bet.


STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: OK, so it's not for the right reasons. The call here goes to Rudy Gay, who missed 26 shots — an 11-of-37 night — for Toronto against Houston. It's the first time an NBA player missed that many attempts from the floor since Kobe Bryant went 17 for 47 on Nov. 7, 2002.