DALLAS — The Mavericks are old. Seven players in their rotation in their 30s. Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic are 33. Jason Kidd is 38, so old he once was coached by Dick Motta.
The Thunder is young. Only Nazr Mohammed is over 30. None of the top scorers has reached his 23rd birthday.
Old means wise. Old means experienced. Old means skilled, since one thing the NBA doesn't tolerate is old and bad.
Young means fresh. Young means fast. Young means never having to say you're tired.
The Western Conference Finals begin Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, and it's a classic matchup.
Can the Mavs make the Thunder pay for youthful mistakes? Not finding Terry on the wing. Leaping to block a Dirk Nowitzki shot that has yet to be launched.
Can the Thunder make the Mavs pay for old joints? Not having anyone with a prayer of guarding Russell Westbrook. Not getting back quickly when the Thunder seizes possession and takes off like the Oklahoma Land Run.
“If we don't get stops, we can't get transition points,” Kevin Durant said Monday, after flourishing with 39 points in the biggest test of his career, a Game 7 against Memphis. “But if we play D, get deflections and steals, you'll never know what will happen.”
Yes we do know. The Thunder will win. If the Thunder pushes the ball, turns this series into a sprint relay, the Thunder is NBA Finals bound.
But if the Mavericks control tempo, if this series becomes a game of halfcourt offense, Dallas will win and probably easily.
“We want to run and score in transition,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks.
Did you see how the Boomers slew the Grizzlies on Sunday? Durant nailed four 3-pointers by late in the third quarter to blow open the game. Three of his four treys came on possessions of six seconds or less.
Shane Battier and Tony Allen were draped all over Durant, just like always, but you can't drape when you're on offense. And the Thunder scooted the ball so quickly, Memphis was hard-pressed to find Durant, especially with Westbrook on a beeline for the basket.
The Mavs will be hard on Durant. They don't have a Battier or an Allen, but with DeShawn Stevenson, Shawn Marion and Corey Brewer, they have enough quality defenders to harass Durant. And Dallas' team defense is more than solid.
The Thunder must run to open avenues for Durant and James Harden and even Daequan Cook.
“We've kind of changed our personality,” Brooks said. “Early in the year, we weren't shooting a lot of threes.”