Experience can go a long way in postseason play in any sport, but there is such a thing as too much experience. The grind of the NBA playoffs takes its toll on every team and players with too many miles on their legs can go from “wily veteran” to “old and slow” in a single Russell Westbrook fast break.
This trio of teams is in the greatest danger of getting knocked out of the postseason by sheer inability to keep up:
One of the thinnest playoff teams in the league a year ago, Boston hasn’t added much depth for 2012. The Celtics will go eight deep at the most in postseason play and four of those (including the three leading scorers on the roster) are 33 or older.
The Celtics’ chances aren’t helped much by a potential first-round matchup with the fleet-footed Hawks, who will test Boston’s willingness to run at every opportunity. None of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen or Paul Pierce is the player he once was and in a playoff series against a deeper opponent, they’re going to show it even more than they’ve done in the regular season.
San Antonio Spurs
Last spring’s biggest upset victims after falling to the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, the Spurs are in line for another top seed this year. Even with youngsters such as Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard playing bigger roles, though, San Antonio’s fortunes will turn on the performance of declining stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
At 34, the injury-plagued Ginobili has been limping through one of the worst seasons of his career (12.3 points and a career-low 0.8 steals a night), while Duncan failed to make the All-Star roster for the first time since 1999. The Spurs may not get bounced in the opening round again, but their championship window with Duncan as their leader has closed.
In 56 games, the Mavericks have suffered as many losses as they did in 82 games last year. The defending champs suffered heavy free-agent losses and the patchwork of veterans they brought in as replacements have made an old team older.
Dirk Nowitzki is still going strong at 33, but 38-year-old Jason Kidd is averaging career lows of 5.9 points and 5.2 assists a night. Jason Terry (34) and Vince Carter (35) are being counted on for major scoring output and when their legs start to tire, Dallas will have few options for putting points on the board.