|Written by Michael|
Time is obviously running out for this team of veterans led by 38-year-old Jason Kidd and 32-year-old Dirk Nowitzki to win an NBA Title. And with the Oklahoma City Thunder featuring a group of players in their early 20s, this year's Western Conference Finals pits age and experience against fresh legs and speed.
The Mavericks are coming off of one of the most surprising postseason sweeps in history, eliminating the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semifinals. The series went from bad to worse for the Lakers, who were embarrassed in Game Four by the Mavericks, who won the game 122-86. But the Mavs and the Lakers were similarly aging this year, and Los Angeles was carrying the extra burden of three NBA Finals appearances in three years.
Dallas will now face a team with much less playoff experience but also much hungrier for playoff success. The Thunder are young and coming off of a grueling seven-game series against the equally surprising and athletic Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas has had a week and a half off waiting for the Thunder-Grizzlies series to end, an amount of time which may be edging closer to the divide between rest and rust.
Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder is coming off of a great victory in Game Seven, scoring 39 points. Russell Westbrook ended up with his first triple-double, as well, so the Thunder have a certain amount of momentum coming into Game One on Tuesday night. This team also has speed and athleticism that both Dallas and Los Angeles lack. The Thunder will be looking to keep the pace as fast as possible against the Mavericks.
Dallas will also have to work harder to get their three-pointers to fall. While LA fell victim to twenty three-pointers in Game Four against the Mavs, the Thunder will defend against those outside shots much more aggressively. But Kidd and Nowitzki have been to the conference finals before, and will use that experience to adjust to the younger more athletic Thunder.
This series should be as exciting as the conference finals in the East between the Heat and Bulls, although it will feature less of the hype and year-long undertones of the James-Wade-Bosh NBA soap opera. But if the Mavericks fall, it will truly be a changing of the guard in the NBA, with all of the other aging dynasties and semi-dynasties having been eliminated already. Is 2011 finally Dallas' turn for a championship?