OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jason Kidd is defying age and, quite frankly, the odds this postseason. He's obviously a steady presence on offense, averaging 10.0 points and 7.5 assists. It's at the other end of the floor where Kidd's performances have been eye-opening against some of the league's top scorers.
Kidd can't check those guys for an entire game, but the 38-year-old is showing he has enough left in his legs to combine with a savvy noggin to be an effective defender against taller and quicker guards who can light it up.
"I believe that I still have that athletic ability," Kidd said. "I probably lie to myself, but I can still do the things I could do at 25 or 26. But, sometimes I’m brought back down to understand that I’m not as fast as I once was."
Kidd is flirting with a career-high steals average (not including first-round exits) at 2.2 a game. He is on pace to surpass the 34 he had in the 2002 playoffs and 36 in 2003, the seasons Kidd led the New Jersey Nets to consecutive NBA Finals.
"Until you line up face-to-face against him, which I did for four years in Atlanta, and you realize this guy’s competitive spirit and what drives him to be great, then you would never know," Jason Terry said. "You can’t watch a game, you can’t read about it in the newspaper, you’ve got to line up in front of him. Once you do, then you understand. For him, I know what’s driving him and that’s that championship trophy."
Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, credited for his defense against the San Antonio Spurs and the Thunder in the second round, had 25 steals in 13 games, three fewer than Kidd in the same number of games. Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade is next with 21 steals in 13 games.
Kidd, who said he can no longer afford to play up on his man as closely as he once did, is one of the best at anticipating a pass and cutting it off.
"Knowing that I’m not as fast, you've got to anticipate and sometimes you might guess wrong," Kidd said. "The big thing is to make it as tough as possible. These guys are extremely athletic and talented and understand how to play."
Many of his steals in the latter stages of his 17-year career come via savvy and smarts more than athleticism. Kidd has 12 steals against the athletic Thunder backcourt. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has 15 turnovers in the series, including seven in Game 3. In crunch time of Games 1 and 3 against the Lakers, Kidd frustrated Bryant into a couple of costly turnovers.
"I’m just trying to make it tough on these guys," Kidd said. "These guys all have the advantage. If it’s not speed or height, they all can score. I'm just trying to make it tough and contest. I’ve been in the league long enough. I’ve been scored on. It’s not like if they score it’s something new. You don’t let that affect you, you just keep on playing."