As the late singer Aaliyah once said, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.”
And that has never been truer in the NBA than now.
The Oklahoma City Thunder had the youngest starting lineup in an NBA Finals Game 1 in 35 years. Their average age of 25 didn’t stop them from taking a 1-0 series lead over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat.
What this Thunder team has already accomplished, and what they could accomplish in the upcoming games, is virtually unprecedented when age is taken into account.
Durant and Westbrook combined for 63 points in Game 1. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is tied with Julius Erving and Doug Collins (1977 Philadelphia 76ers) for the most combined points by a duo in their NBA Finals debut.
Durant and Westbrook alone outplayed the entire Heat team in the second half, outscoring them 41-40.
Youngest to Score 35+ Pts in Finals Game
Durant’s 36 points in Game 1 tied the franchise mark for most points in a Finals game. Durant also became the fourth-youngest (23 years, 257 days) player in NBA history to score at least 35 points in an NBA Finals game.
Westbrook, who had 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in Game 1, is the second player in NBA history with at least 25 points and 10 assists in their NBA Finals debut. The other player? None other than Michael Jordan, who had 36 points and 12 assists in a 1991 Game 1 loss to the Lakers.
Forget NBA Finals debuts. Westbrook’s performance was special. He was the first player with at least 25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in an NBA Finals game since Charles Barkley in 1993.
25 Pts, 8 Reb, 10 Ast in NBA Finals
Last 25 Seasons
Where age and inexperience normally might come into play is crunch time, but that hasn’t been the case. This postseason, in the final five minutes of the 4th quarter and overtime when the game is within five points, the Thunder are shooting 48.3 percent (29-for-60). The Heat are shooting just 36.4 percent in crunch time (24-for-66).
And nobody with at least 20 crunch-time shot attempts has been better this postseason than Durant, who’s shooting 60 percent (12-for-20). In fact, there have only been four game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the 4th quarter and overtime this postseason, and Durant has three of them.
No matter how it’s sliced, the Thunder have proven time and time again this postseason that youth is overrated. Just three years removed from back-to-back-to-back 50-loss seasons, a bunch of 20-somethings are now three wins away from their franchise’s first NBA Championship in 33 years.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com