DALLAS -- By any measure, the Dallas Mavericks are the older of the two teams in the NBA Finals. Much older, in fact.
So it stands to reason that the Mavericks' well-seasoned vets could stand to steal a few minutes of wind each game while chasing around those young Miami Heat studs. No doubt 30-somethings Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry have to be feeling it going into Thursday night, the fifth game of the series and third in five nights.
Even if they don't want to admit it.
"I feel great," Kidd said.
But the reality for the Dallas graybeards is as clear as math. LeBron James is 26. Chris Bosh, 27. Dwyane Wade is the elder statesman at a ripe old 29. Factor in injury and attrition, and it becomes that much more challenging for the Mavs.
Nowitzki, 32, has gone from a torn finger tendon to a triple-digit fever. Terry, 33, is dealing with a sore wrist, while 33-year-old Marion has a sore calf. Backup center Brendan Haywood, 31, likely won't play in Game 5 due to a strained hip. Kidd is, well, really old at 38.
"We're all beat up," Marion said. "It's been a long year. If you ain't got no aches or bruises right now, you ain't playing no ball. It’s part of the game. We're competitors and we're going to lace them up."
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle did make it a point to rest Marion and as much as possible in Game 4. Marion logged 26 minutes Tuesday night -- only 12 seconds in the fourth quarter -- after banging against LeBron and friends for 43 in Game 3.
"I would like to keep him in the 30s," Carlisle said of Marion, "because I think his energy level will be optimal, and he'll be able to keep pressure on the ball and be able to stay in a stance and do the kind of things we need all of our guys to do to play their best. And still have enough energy to give us what he can give us offensively.
"The other challenge that you have this time of year is making sure that you got fresh guys on the floor all the time. Now we have [Tyson] Chandler that's running up some big minutes, and that's something that I've got to have a plan for going forward."
An ailing Nowitzki fought through 39 minutes in Game 4 after topping 40 in the first three games. Kidd played a series-high 39 minutes in Game 4. Terry is averaging less than 33 minutes but is often matched up with a bigger defender, such as James, down the stretch, which can take a toll.
"If guys play a few more minutes, they play a few more minutes," Carlisle said. "I think the key thing is to spell them so that they don't get into a situation where they get completely gassed."
The Mavs' frontliners can't pile up the 40-plus-minute outings with the same ease or nearly the same effectiveness of LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh. That makes the roles of DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea, and perhaps Peja Stojakovic and Brian Cardinal, that much more important.
"It's physical," Stevenson said of the series. "LeBron is 260. Dwyane Wade is putting pressure on us. We're going to need everybody. A lot of guys will go out there and play solid minutes and get out when they can."
Barea added: "Make your minutes count. [Carlisle] always said play hard and if you get tired, ask for a sub."
Should the Mavericks pull out Game 5 and take a 3-2 series lead, two days of rest follow before Game 6 in Miami. Rest, though, isn't really on anyone's mind.
"We can rest in the summertime," Marion said. "That's what it boils down to. I don't care. If I'm out there and have to cough up blood, dude, it is what it is. It's just that time of the year. The season is that much shorter. Within the next few days the season will be over with. We can rest then."