Young set of NBA stars take over NBA playoffs and will be disputing berths in NBA Finals

Young set of NBA stars take over NBA playoffs and will be disputing berths in NBA Finals

Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton (left) and Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards. | PHOTOS: AFP and AP

The NBA conference finals starting on Tuesday will showcase a new generation of stars as Boston takes on Indiana in the East and Dallas clashes with Minnesota in the West for a place in the Finals.

Boston’s 26-year-old Jayson Tatum and 27-year-old Jaylen Brown are already experienced hands after the Celtics reached the conference finals in each of the past two seasons and making it to the championship series in 2022 only to fall to Golden State. They were then stunned by eighth-seeded Miami in the conference finals last year.

In the Pacers they’ll face a high-octane offense led by 24-year-old Tyrese Haliburton, while in the West, 25-year-old Luka Doncic will lead the Mavericks against 22-year-old Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves.

Kyrie Irving, traded to the Mavericks in February 2023, has seen close-up what Doncic and the rest of the league’s rising stars bring to the table.

“They have no fear,” Irving said after the Mavericks polished off a six-game victory over top-seeded Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals.

“They want to kill our records. They want to kill us every time they get on the court,” said Irving, an eight-time All-Star who won a title with Cleveland in 2016.

“That was the first thing I noticed about Luka, that he just had no fear going against the best in the world,” Irving said. “He always walks around like he’s the best player in the world. I think that’s the confidence of a champion. That’s where it starts.”

LeBron James is still a force at 39, but his Lakers were swept by Denver in the first round of the playoffs.

The Timberwolves swept Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns out of the first round when the Pacers took care of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Stephen Curry’s Warriors didn’t make it out of the play-in and three-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the defending champion Nuggets were subdued in seven games in the West semis by Minnesota.

Edwards, averaging 28.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the playoffs, showed his maturity in Game 7, when he shook off a poor shooting night to dig in on the defensive end and help author one of the greatest Game 7 comebacks in NBA history.

“I’m not one-dimensional,” declared Edwards, whose stellar season has seen him tabbed for the US Olympic team.

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But Irving thinks Doncic has the edge in maturity. The Slovenian star is in the playoffs for the fourth time, his longest prior run a trip to the conference finals in 2022. —AFP

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