It’s almost impossible to quantify in a tangible way, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The value of having experienced, battle tested veterans on an NBA roster during the playoffs is priceless and accounts for unexpected game and series victories every year.
Game four of the Western Conference Finals fits that description, with Dallas winning a game most teams wouldn’t. Down 15 with four minutes left you could see the Mavs as a team consciously decide to “flip the switch” and get back in the game, at the last possible moment they could have. As Jason Terry put it after the game, “We showed championship mettle.”
“This is the sign of a veteran team coming through, and Dirk hitting some big shots, J Kidd was everywhere,” said Shawn Marion. “We stopped them on defense during that run and they couldn’t get nothing.”
Dirk will get the glory for hitting some clutch shots down the stretch, but every Mavs player that I have seen interviewed after the game went out of their way to mention Jason Kidd’s performance. The eldest veteran on a team of veterans, Kidd played his best ball of the series in the fourth quarter and overtime. His 17 points were the most he’s scored in the last two series, hitting three three pointers and contributing seven assists, five rebounds and four steals in the typical Kidd stat line we’re used to seeing.
For as much as Dallas’ veterans have stepped up and answered the call when needed, Russell Westbrook has done the exact opposite. In that fourth period when Harden was gone and it was him and Durant versus the Mavs essentially, Westbrook didn’t do much to stop the hemorrhaging or give the Mavs a reason to back off Durant. Westbrook (7-22) and Durant (8-22) were a combined 15 of 44 from the field in game four. The Thunder turned the ball over 25 times.
For as much that was made out of the Thunder dealing Jeff Green to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and how much worse it supposedly made the Celtics, that trade has had at least that much of detrimental impact on the OKC offense in a way that was overlooked. Could it be that the trade actually made both teams worse?
Other than James Harden, who is the Thunder’s third scoring option? It would have been Jeff Green. When Harden fouled out early in the fourth period, the Thunder’s offense stagnated and the Mavericks kicked it up a notch, knowing that on defense all they had to do was stop “Durantula” and Westbrook. Which essentially made it five on two because none of the Thunder’s other three players on the floor was ever regarded as a threat.
Whatever you want to call what the Mavs did to the Thunder at the end of the fourth quarter and OT, it’s what that old guy at seemingly every YMCA or open gym across the country knows already.
Even though he’s 25 years older and you’re quicker, stronger and younger, you can’t get a shot off and you have no rhythm. His “Rec Specs” are easy to mock, and so are his Converse’s, but you can’t because you’re winded and he isn’t, hitting every 15 footer and grabbing every loose ball. And you can’t figure out why.
That is experience, and there is no substitute for it.
(Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison)