After a bevy of edge-of-your-seat action, upset wins and thrilling overtime finishes, it only seems appropriate that the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat face off in an NBA Finals rematch that went seven games just one year ago.
For the Heat, winning another championship is a fitting conclusion after reaching the Finals in four consecutive seasons. As for the Spurs, redemption is the key word in this upcoming grudge match.
The intensity continues to build, and it's safe to say missing a moment of this series would be rather unfortunate.
So, which team has the upper hand this year? Sure, the usual suspects will come into play; however, it will be X-factors deciding the outcome of Game 1—and potentially the series.
Here's a look at the television schedule and an outlook of each team's X-factors for Game 1.
Heat vs. Spurs Game 1 TV Info
Series: Tied 0-0
When: Thursday, June 5
Where: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Heat vs. Spurs Game 1 X-Factors
Generally, a name like Parker's isn't really considered an X-factor; however, due to his ailing ankle, that's exactly what he is heading into Game 1.
Parker sprained his ankle in Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He aggravated it during Game 5 and was later forced to miss the second half of Game 6.
Luckily for the Spurs, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that Parker is expected to play on Thursday:
The San Antonio Spurs expect to have Tony Parker in the lineup Thursday when they host the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, according to sources close to the situation.
The San Antonio Express-News quoted a source Sunday saying that Parker "absolutely" will be ready to play in Game 1 despite an ankle injury that plagued him for much of the Western Conference finals.
Parker looked good against the Heat in two games this season, averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 assists per game. His status must be monitored, as he may not be 100 percent by Thursday, and his effectiveness could be limited as a result.
Leonard has been a revelation for the Spurs this season. He capped off a great series against the Thunder with a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double.
The strong forward has been dynamic on the offensive end of the court—this dunk over Serge Ibaka really sums it up:
But his biggest role in the upcoming series against the Heat will be defending LeBron James.
Leonard played one game against the Heat this season and came away with 11 points, five rebounds and five steals. If he can continue that trend, and help contain James on the perimeter in the Finals, the Spurs' chances increase in dramatic fashion.
Again, here's a rather big name coming into the series; however, Bosh is absolutely an X-factor.
He began the Eastern Conference Finals in a bit of a slump, recording just nine point in each of the first three contests. Bosh righted the ship in a big way in Game 4, accumulating 25 points and six rebounds. He continued that trend throughout the remaining two games of the series.
Practice throughout the series sure appeared to help Bosh's game. Here's a look at his pull-up jumper, courtesy of the NBA's Vine account:
Bosh enters the Finals with a great deal of momentum and a hot hand. If he keeps that going over the first few games against a defensively sound Spurs team, Miami will be extremely dangerous on the offensive end of the court.
Although, if Bosh finds himself in another slump, winning Game 1 on the road will be even more of a daunting task for the Heat.
We all saw what the Spurs are capable of accomplishing in the paint without the threatening presence of a big man when Ibaka missed time for the Thunder.
While Anderson's injury may not be as severe as Ibaka's, his status must be monitored in the same manner.
Anderson missed Games 4 and 5 against the Indiana Pacers with a bruised thigh. He did come off the bench in Game 6, but played only 13 minutes.
Dave Zirin of Edge of Sports Radio tweeted a glimpse of what Anderson is capable of when healthy:
How does Chris Anderson get five boards in three minutes? That's like a 78 rebound pace.— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) May 31, 2014
With Duncan and Co. thriving in the paint, the Heat could certainly use some more on-court time from their 6'10" power forward. In two games against the Spurs this season, Anderson averaged seven points, 5.5 rebounds and one block per game.
If Miami is forced to start the less-effective Rashard Lewis in his place in Game 1, rest assured the Spurs' game plan will focus heavily in the paint.