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.
Veteran 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, Philadelphia, Memphis and Denver made the playoffs but are gone.
So it’s only a maybe that this postseason will be “The Year That the Torch was Passed.”
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 the Spurs now in plowing their way to the No. 1 seed winning their first 10 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. Oklahoma City has 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 5-8 ATS in their last 13 playoff games as an underdog while Miami is 16-7 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.
Ah, the 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. LeBron was also 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 (smartly resting Tim Duncan at times) and outstanding defensively as a team in the postseason.
The Western Conference Finals is 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 Harden (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 30-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. They won at home over Oklahoma City (April 4) 98-93 and lost at the Thunder, 103-87 (March 25).
The Spurs are 36-12-4 ATS in their last 52 as a favorite, while the UNDER is 24-9 in Miami’s last 33 games playing on one day’s rest.