Anthony Insider: No Substitute for Experience

By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider


As we come to the end of the first week of the playoffs, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is the importance of experience and the impact it has had so far in all of the series. But what is experience? And how does it impact a specific game or series?

This year, we have five teams in the playoffs that were not here last season -- Denver, Memphis, Miami, Houston, and New York -- and they have a combined 1-7 record thus far. The only win was a two-point victory by the Heat on a bucket by rookie Dwyane Wade (it's safe to say he isn't an average rookie). Go figure.

You could say all those defeats came on the road, and the one win was at home, but it does go deeper, and experience is important.


Shaquille O'Neal
Center
Los Angeles Lakers
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CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
GM MIN PPG RPG APG
138 40.2 27.9 12.8 3.2
Basketball in the playoffs is a different game than the one played in the regular season. First, there's the physical play -- the game at times can resemble football (did you see the Lakers and Rockets in Game 1). For players and teams who have not gone through it, how they handle it could determine whether you can have success this time of year. If you don't handle it, can you learn from it and build for the future?

Experience allows you to trust your teammates. When you've been together and faced adversity throughout the course of the season and or the playoffs, you know what your teammates are capable of. You know how they're going to respond when things go south, and you have the poise and the patience to be able to execute down the stretch. If you've heard me say it once you've heard me say it a thousand times -- the playoffs are about adversity, and experience allows you to handle it.


Stephon Marbury
Point Guard
New York Knicks
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CAREER PLAYOFF STATISTICS
GM MIN PPG RPG APG
15 42.4 18.5 3.8 6.5
You've seen it this year with the Knicks. Whenever the pressure rises they tend to go back on their heels they don't execute and tend to play a lot of one-on-one, both offensively and defensively, forcing shots and not playing for one another.

Contrast that with Indiana, which lost Ron Artest and struggled throughout the first three quarters of Game 2 vs. Boston. But again, the experience of having been through the adversity of the playoffs and having an understanding of who they are and how they play allowed them to stay with their game plan, and ultimately, their will won out.

The Pacers dominated the paint and never allowed the moment to become too big. When that happens, you don't function within the concept of your team and how you play the game. And more often than not, you will find ways to lose. All the best teams understand this -- when things get tight, you can find a way to get it done, even when it doesn't look good. That trust is so important, because it keeps you focused.


The new kids on the block all have players with experience, but their respective groups have not all been there in the heat of the battle, and that sometimes makes it harder to stay within the structure of their team. Teams like Denver and Houston have a chance to learn from the experience of this year's playoffs, because their core is young and growing together. You would also expect that their chemistry and trust will grow from the experience, especially if they can win some games and make their series interesting.

That's the other thing about experience -- you typically have to experience losing together before you can get over the hump and experience some playoff success.

Greg Anthony, a veteran of 11 NBA seasons, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. Click here to send him an e-mail.