Following an entire postseason of dominant performances by both the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, both franchises will face off yet again in the 2014 NBA Finals.
Between the star power that players like LeBron James and Tim Duncan provide alone, both teams also feature their own version of the Big Three. After the Heat staged a gigantic comeback last year to win in seven games, the two will put on another show over the next several days.
With only one champion being crowned, fans of the NBA will almost certainly have another enthralling series as each team looks to add to its legacy. San Antonio comes in as the favorite to win the opening game at home, where they are 9-1 during the playoffs.
Before the matchup officially gets underway on Thursday night, let's take a look at the full schedule, odds and predictions for the NBA Finals.
|2014 NBA Finals Schedule|
|Date||Matchup||Start Time (ET)||Channel||Live Stream|
|Thu, June 5||Game 1: Heat at Spurs||9 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 8||Game 2: Heat at Spurs||8 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 10||Game 3: Spurs at Heat||9 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Thu, June 12||Game 4: Spurs at Heat||9 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Sun, June 15||Game 5: Heat at Spurs*||8 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Tue, June 17||Game 6: Spurs at Heat*||9 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|Fri, June 20||Game 7: Heat at Spurs*||9 p.m.||ABC||WatchESPN|
|NBA.com (*if necessary)|
|Updated Championship Odds|
|San Antonio Spurs||5-6|
NBA Finals Breakdown
After teams like the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder, among others, looked like true competition for the crown during the season, there's no arguing that the two best franchises are battling for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
While the Spurs and Heat by name alone can draw a huge following, the two clear stars for their team have a grudge to settle. Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles notes the huge showdown between Duncan and James:
James was dethroned as the MVP this season, but still has a shot at the ultimate goal of each season—winning a championship. After all, the Heat's Big Three still have a few more titles to win in order to achieve their ultimate goal.
As for Duncan, the Spurs big man is in search of his fifth title during his 17-year career in San Antonio. The 38-year-old spoke about recovering from last season's disappointment against the Heat, per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.
"It's unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss that we had last year," Duncan said. "But we're back here. We're excited about it. We've got four more to win. We'll do it this time."
One change that will take place late in the series—if it gets to that point—is Game 5 of the Finals will return to San Antonio before returning to Miami for Game 6. If the series is tied to that point, the Spurs would have a clear advantage with their superior home record.
Though the Heat come in as two-time defending champions, they will be considered underdogs in the Finals. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports points out the odds between the two teams:
With both teams taking the court to get the series started on Thursday night, it all comes down to a race to win just four more games. The Spurs may hold home-court advantage, but the Heat are used to cracking the will of any team and imposing their will.
Thanks to having the best basketball player in the NBA on the court along with a healthy Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Heat will once again hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy. With a three-peat in hand, Miami will then turn its attention yet again to another championship.
Prediction: Heat win in six games.
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