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Heat, Spurs begin NBA Finals on Thursday
By: Zach Cohen - StatFox
Published: 6/5/2014  at  5:31:00 AM
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MIAMI HEAT (66-31)


NBA Finals
Game 1
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:05 p.m. ET
Line: San Antonio -3.5, Total: 198.5

Game 1 of the NBA Finals kicks off Thursday night in San Antonio when the Spurs look to get revenge on the Heat for what happened in 2013.

Miami advanced to the championship with a 117-92 blowout victory versus the Pacers in a home Game 6, while San Antonio actually had to work hard for a 112-107 road win in Game 6 over Oklahoma City. Last year, these two teams met in the NBA Finals where the Heat ultimately won their second straight championship with a Game 7 victory. Over the past three seasons, the Spurs are 3-2 SU and ATS versus Miami when at home, but overall, the Heat are 8-4 SU while the two teams have split games 6-6 ATS. Twenty-eight of the past 39 games played in this series have gone Under the total since 1996. San Antonio star PG Tony Parker (ankle) is likely to play in Game 1 after missing most of the second half of the team's series-clinching win in the Western Conference Finals. For interested bettors, Miami is 16-5 ATS over the past two seasons after three straight games forcing its opponent to commit 14 or less turnovers. The Heat are also 11-3 ATS when playing five or less games in 14 days this season. However, the Spurs are 43-24 ATS in non-conference games over the past two seasons, and 32-17 ATS after a combined score of 205+ points this season.

The Heat embarrassed the Pacers in Game 6 behind an impressive overall team effort. SF LeBron James (27.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.8 SPG in playoffs) had an excellent game, finishing with 25 points (8-of-12 FG), six assists and four rebounds after having just seven points in Game 5. James was unstoppable attacking the rim, and really had it going from mid-range. He should have more difficulty against a Spurs team that tries to make the role players beat them. PF Chris Bosh (15.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG in playoffs) really got himself going in the final three games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Bosh averaged 23.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 1.3 BPG over that final stretch, and his outside shot appeared to be back after he struggled mightily in the opening rounds of this postseason. Bosh will need to have a big series, as he is the only player with size on the Heat roster, and will be going up against some talented frontcourt players. SG Dwyane Wade (18.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG in playoffs) had just 13 points in 25 minutes in Game 6, but he did have six assists and six rebounds. Wade looked like his old self in the first three rounds for Miami. If he can continue to drive aggressively and hit his outside shot occasionally, it will really help open up the floor for James in this series. SG Ray Allen (9.1 PPRG, 3.5 RPG in playoffs) had some big moments against the Pacers, and the Heat will need his shooting off the bench against San Antonio.

Last year, the Spurs were devastated when a missed layup late in the series by PF Tim Duncan (16.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.4 BPG in playoffs) fell just short, which helped allow the Heat to win the NBA championship. Despite suffering from that loss, the Spurs have rebounded and made it all the way back for some revenge in 2014. Duncan has been a man on a mission for the Spurs, finishing with 19 points and 15 rebounds in a closeout game on the road against the Thunder. San Antonio force-fed him the ball late and he delivered down the stretch on nearly every touch. Duncan will need to be aggressive in his matchup with the weaker Chris Bosh. PG Tony Parker (17.2 PPG, 4.9 APG in playoffs) was injured in Game 6 against the Thunder and was able to play only 19 minutes, but he is likely to play in Game 1 against Miami. Parker will need to use his speed to make sure he is making a living in the paint because the Heat point guards are one of the teamís major weaknesses. SG Manu Ginobili (14.3 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG in playoffs) had 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals in Game 6 against the Thunder. Ginobili was all over the place for San Antonio in that series, making timely baskets and coming away with steals when the Spurs needed him most. His matchup with Dwyane Wade could come a long way in determining who wins this series. SF Kawhi Leonard (13.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.7 SPG in playoffs) will be faced with the difficult task of covering LeBron James for most of this series. C Boris Diaw (10.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.7 APG in playoffs), who had 26 points (8-of-14 FG) in Game 6, will also check James for a couple of possessions per game.

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