Say, what happened to “Youth Must Be Served?” Last year a pair of veteran teams met in the NBA Finals, with Miami winning its second straight title in seven games against the aging Spurs. Lo and behold, the same team teams made it to the Conference Finals again, with the young Pacers and Thunder trying to break through. Two years ago it was supposed to be the time the kids stepped up in Oklahoma City stepped up. OKC came close, winning Game 1 of the Finals before Miami won four in a row. The previous year a younger Miami team came close, carving out a 2-1 series lead before collapsing, as it was those old fogies in Dallas who came away with the title – another veteran team winning the whole thing. You get the sense the NBA is suddenly an old man’s game. In fact veteran NBA teams have been on a roll, with the Celtics winning it all in 2008, the Lakers in 2009-10, the Mavericks in 2012 out of nowhere, and the Heat the last two years. This year young teams from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Memphis and Golden State made the playoffs but are gone.
In 2012 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 then 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 (Pacers and Thunder) against the old men of San Antonio and Miami. While the NBA is more of an athletic game, primed for young legs, the experience of the Mavericks certainly helped them two years ago and helped the Spurs plow their way to the No. 1 seed for the second season in a row. But at some point age can work against a team, breaking down from injuries. 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 29, and even he’s been in the league ten years. He’s also been in the NBA Finals in 2007 with Cleveland. Dwyane Wade (age 32) 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 2014 is defense.
The Thunder, Pacers, Spurs and Heat all finished in the Top 10 in the NBA during the regular season in either points allowed for field goal shooting defense. Oklahoma City was tops in the West in FG shooting defense, while the Pacers were best in the NBA. This shouldn’t surprise. Two years 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 25-year old 6-10 Kevin Durant and 25-year old Russell Westbrook (23.7 ppg), while the Spurs are filthy with age and talent. The Spurs have 38-year old Tim Duncan, 36-year old Manu Ginobili and 31-year old Tony Parker, though the Spurs rely heavily on their bench, which leads the league in scoring for the fifth straight season. So how did defending champion Miami do against the Best of the West? They got crushed by the Thunder (112-95) at home, won at OKC (103-81), got blown out at San Antonio (111-87) and won at home over the Spurs (113-101). Which shows how little stock you should put in regular season meetings, as situational factors and injuries come into play. Are the kids ready to take over? Or will we see another bunch of old men hoist the trophy?