The Heat are now headed to their fourth straight Finals appearance in the LeBron James era, and they'll be looking to win their third straight NBA title to officially cement their dynasty. However, they'll have to get through one of the best teams in the league in the Spurs, who have several future Hall of Fame players in Tim Duncan and Tony Parker as well as a great coach in Gregg Popovich.
With Game 1 set to begin on Thursday, let's take a look at some of the latest predictions backed up by analysis before the Finals officially begin.
Dwyane Wade Continues to Look Like He's In His Prime
Head coach Erik Spoelstra made the decision to keep Dwyane Wade well-rested throughout the year, having him play in just 54 games throughout the regular season. That's seemed to pay off, as he's looking like the Wade that was playing in his prime five years ago.
Wade hasn't put up the same numbers this season, but once the playoffs began, he started to step up. In fact, as the playoffs have continued, he's actually gotten better, with his numbers going up in almost every category despite playing roughly the same minutes. You can see the series-by-series improvement below:
|Dwyane Wade Series-By-Series Stats|
The last series was especially impressive against the Indiana Pacers. Despite being guarded by the likes of Lance Stephenson and Paul George, Wade simply imposed his will against them, especially in the first three games, when he was averaging 24.3 points per game on 62 percent shooting.
While the Spurs are probably a better team right now, Wade will be going against arguably more desirable matchups than he did against the Pacers. For the Pacers, Stephenson and George had a combined 11.2 defensive win shares, while Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have just 9.0.
"It's enjoyable not to deal with what I had to deal with," Wade told Jeff Zillgitt from USA Today about staying healthy. "That's most enjoyable — knowing I can help my team this year in ways I couldn't do at this time last season."
With how he's looked so far this postseason, expect big things yet again from Wade against the Spurs.
Tony Parker's Sprained Ankle Won't be a Concern
After missing the second half of Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Spurs fans might be worried about Tony Parker's health heading into Game 1 against the Heat. However, as we've seen from star players before, an injury like this won't keep Parker from playing at a high level on a stage like this one.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports, Parker has been dealing with a sprained ankle, but reportedly should be ready for Game 1 on Thursday. Fortunately, since the team was able to take down the Thunder in overtime without him, Parker will have some extra time to heal the ankle before the series begins.
Parker's numbers weren't great against the Thunder, but he was still effective with the ankle sprain. Over the series, he averaged 13.2 points and 4.8 assists per game while shooting a solid 49.3 percent. Considering he was going up against point guards like Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook, Parker's numbers are pretty respectable.
The 32-year-old won't have to deal with that kind of athleticism against the Heat, and as a veteran that's won three NBA titles, he won't let a sprained ankle keep him from being as effective as possible when on the court.
Note: Advanced statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.