Four keys to victory for the Heat
1. King James. If LeBron James plays the way he did in game seven of last year’s Finals, when he had 37 points and 12 rebounds, he’ll win a third straight Finals MVP award and a championship ring.
2. Dwyane Wade. Wade has gotten a lot of rest for his bad knees this year, and he should be fresh and have an advantage when matched up against the Spurs’ Danny Green.
3. Playoff success. Miami has the best playoff winning percentage in the last 10 postseasons (.654).
4. Toughness at home. Miami was 32-9 at home in the regular season, including a 113-101 win over the Spurs on Jan. 26.
Four keys to victory for the Spurs
1. Tim Duncan. Duncan doesn’t score a lot at age 38, but his rebounding and shot blocking could make a difference.
2. Tony Parker. After facing Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook in the last two rounds, Parker may find it easier matched up against former Kansas guard Mario Chalmers.
3. Even more playoff sucess. Since the start of the 2005 playoffs, San Antonio has a league-best 92 playoff victories. (Miami has 89.)
4. Balanced scoring. While Tony Parker led the Spurs in scoring at 16.7 points per game during the regular season, eight others averaged at least 8.2.
Four other key factors
1. Rest. Both teams took two days off after winning their conference final.
2. Respect. Both teams seem to respect each other, perhaps shown best by the way Spurs coach Gregg Popovich embraced any Heat player or coach he could reach after last year’s game seven was won by Miami.
3. The cash. Both teams would increase their share of this season’s $14 million league’s playoff pool by about $900,000 by winning.
4. Confidence. The Spurs should be bolstered by their 24-point romp over Miami on March 6. It came on the same floor where this series will start Thursday.
Four key numbers
1: The Spurs have never lost game one of an NBA Finals. And Miami’s James has never been part of a game-one road victory, in any round.
12.2: Average margin of defeat the seven times that James’ team has opened a playoff series on the road.
17.2: Parker’s team-high scoring average for the Spurs in the playoffs. No team in NBA history, even in the pre-shot-clock era, has won a title with a leading scorer averaging so few points in the postseason.
622: Number of regular-season and playoff victories for Duncan, one more than James.
| Tom Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Star news services