One of the storylines that has resonated throughout the NBA playoffs this year has been the “aging” Celtics. How will the “Big Three” of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce stay with the younger, more athletic teams they will face? Not many experts thought that a team with Allen (age 36), Garnett (just turned 36 last month) and Pierce (34) could make much noise in the playoffs.
Now that the Celtics are one game away from another trip to the NBA Finals, the pundits are throwing out those “how” questions and are analyzing “why” Boston is taking advantage of their aged veterans and powering through the postseason with the “Big Three” and an MVP-caliber performance of Rajon Rondo.
Truth be told, the player leading this Celtic revival is Garnett. After a regular season where he averaged 15.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, Garnett has increased those totals in the playoffs with a 19.9 points per game average along with almost 11 boards per game. And at the age of 35 (and older), Garnett is climbing the stats ladder in several playoff categories for players age 35 or older.
Prior to this year’s playoffs, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the six highest playoff scoring seasons in NBA history. With his 26 points in Tuesday’s Game 5 victory, however, Garnett moved into fifth place for most playoff points in a season by a player age 35 or older. With another game or two (or more) on the horizon, Garnett could challenge Abdul-Jabbar’s top playoff season scoring of 502 points in 1984.
Following are the players 35 years or older who have scored 250 or more points in a playoff season.
Playoff points (in a season) by player 35 years or older:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1984, 502
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1985, 416
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1983, 406
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1986, 362
Kevin Garnett, 2012, 358 (through games of June 6, 2012)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1987, 345
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1988, 338
Elgin Baylor, 1970, 336
Sam Jones, 1969, 303
Steve Nash, 2010, 284
Karl Malone, 2000, 272
If we move the criteria down to 100 or more points in the playoffs, following are the players 35 years of age or older who had the most seasons with 100 or more points in the postseason.
Seasons with 100+ points in playoffs, Players
7: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
4: Karl Malone, Reggie Miller
3: John Stockton
2: Ray Allen, Bruce Bowen, Wilt Chamberlain, Patrick Ewing, John Havlicek, Jeff Hornacek, Dan Issel, Jason Kidd, Robert Parish, Gary Payton, Sam Perkins, Clifford Robinson, David Robinson
In this year’s playoffs, there are currently three players age 35 or older who have scored 100 or more points in the postseason: Garnett (358), Tim Duncan (243) and Ray Allen (167). Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher has scored 97 points in the playoffs, and with at least four more games in the NBA Finals on his docket, Fisher will likely join that group.
In the 2000 playoffs, there were seven players age 35 or older who scored 100 or more points. They were: Patrick Ewing, Ron Harper, Jeff Hornacek, Karl Malone, Sam Perkins, Arvydas Sabonis and John Stockton. That was the playoff season with the most players 35 or older scoring 100 or more points.
Here’s two more playoff stat categories for players 35 or older where Garnett is climbing up the ladder:
KG has grabbed 194 rebounds in this playoffs, which is fourth most for a player age 35 or older. Wilt Chamberlain had 383 boards in 1973; he also had 315 in the 1972 playoffs. Dennis Rodman had 248 rebounds at age 36 in 1998 for the Bulls.
Garnett has played 671 minutes in this playoff season. He will likely tonight become the 10th player 35 years or older who has played 700 or more minutes in a playoff season. A trip to the NBA Finals this year would also probably launch him to the top of this list. Here’s a look at the players 35 or older who logged 700 or more playoff minutes in a season.
Playoff Minutes, Player, Year
801, Wilt Chamberlain, 1973
798, Karl Malone, 2004
772, Gary Payton, 2004
767, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1984
754, Derek Fisher, 2010
744, Jason Kidd, 2011
722, Dennis Rodman, 1998
718, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1988
703, Wilt Chamberlain, 1972
Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp.