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by Jim Feist - 06/05/2012
Say, what happened to "Youth Must Be Served?" Last year was supposed to be the year the kids stepped up in Oklahoma City and Miami and started a new era in the NBA. Well, Miami came close, carving out a 2-1 series lead before collapsing, but it was those old fogies in Dallas who came away with the title - another veteran team winning the whole thing.
Veterans NBA teams have been on a roll, with the Celtics winning it all in 2008, the Lakers in 2009-10 and the Mavericks surprising run last year. This year young teams from Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Philly, Memphis and Denver made the playoffs but are gone. So maybe this postseason will be "The Year That the Torch was Passed."
Last year the thirty-something Mavericks won it all as a No. 3 seed. Despite then 26-year old Jose Barea running all over the place, it was a veteran Dallas team behind 33-year old Dirk Nowitzki, 34-year old Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic (both 34) and 39-year old Jason Kidd.
This year the NBA's Final Four has a pair of young teams (Heat and Thunder) against the old men of San Antonio and Boston. While the NBA is more of an athletic game, primed for young legs, the experience of the Mavericks certainly helped them last season and helped the Spurs plow their way to the No. 1 seed this season winning their first nine postseason contests.
But at some point age will work against a team, breaking down from injuries like the Celtics or a lack of quickness, as the Lakers had against the Thunder. The Thunder have been a great bounce back team, 59-28-1 ATS following a loss. Even Boston had to go seven games against the younger, No. 8 seed 76ers. In fact, the Celtics are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 playoff games as an underdog while Miami is 16-5 ATS as a playoff favorite.
There really haven't been many youthful teams winning the NBA title lately. The Celtics and Lakers were veteran teams that clashed in the Finals in 2008 and 2010. The experienced Lakers topped the young Orlando Magic in 2009, blowing out the kids in Game 1, 100-75. Prior to that veteran teams like the Spurs, Pistons and 2006 Miami Heat won titles.
Ahh, the Miami Heat. They really aren't that youthful, with LeBron James the only kid at age 27, and even he's been in the league nine years. He's also been in the NBA Finals in 2007 with Cleveland. Dwyane Wade (age 30) already has a ring with the 2006 Heat, a veteran team that also had Shaq, Antoine Walker and Gary Payton.
One thing that stands out with the NBA's Final Four of 2012 is defense. The Thunder, Celtics and Heat finished in the Top 5 in the NBA during the regular season in field goal shooting defense, while Miami and Boston were in the Top 4 in points allowed. The Spurs took the regular season when it came to all out defense (resting Tim Duncan at times, a smart move), but they have been outstanding with team defense in the postseason.
This shouldn't surprise. A year ago Miami was sixth in points allowed during the regular season, Dallas was 10th; Miami was second in field goal defense (.434%), while Dallas was 8th (.450%).
The Western Conference Finals was a terrific clash of Youth vs. Experience. Oklahoma City has 23-year old 6-10 Kevin Durant (27.9 ppg, 8 rpg), 23-year old Russell Westbrook (23.7 ppg), 22-year old James Hardne (16.8 ppg, 6-11 Kendrick Perkins (6.6 rpg) and 6-10 Serge Ibaka (9 ppg, 7.7 rpg). Meanwhile the Spurs have 36-year old Tim Duncan (15 ppg, 9 rpg), 34-year old Manu Ginobili (12.9 ppg) and 29-year old Tony Parker (18 ppg), though the Spurs rely heavily on their bench, which leads the league in scoring for the third straight season, with Richard Jefferson (9 ppg), Stephen Jackson and role players in 7-foot Matt Bonner, 6-11 Tiago Splitter, Dujuan Blair and Gary Neal.
So how did Miami do against the Best of the West? They won at home over San Antonio (Jan. 17) in a 120-98 blowout, the only meeting. Plus they won at home over Oklahoma City (April 4) 98-93 and lost at the Thunder, 103-87 (March 25). Keep in mind the Spurs are 35-12-4 ATS in their last 51 games as a favorite, while the under is 24-7 in Miami’s last 31 games playing on one day's rest, as well as 25-8 under the total at home. Are the kinds ready to take over? Or will we see another bunch of old men hoist the trophy? Let the games begin!