The San Antonio Spurs need four more wins to avenge last year's heartbreaking NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat in this June's championship rematch.
The favored Spurs can take a huge step toward redemption with a win on their home floor in Game 1 Thursday night.
Head coach Gregg Popovich's squad stole Game 1 of the 2013 NBA Finals on the road a year ago, but they were unable to capitalize on stealing home-court advantage in a back-and-forth seven-game series, as noted by Spurs star Tim Duncan to ESPN.com:
It's unbelievable to regain that focus after that devastating loss that we had last year. But we're back here. We're excited about it. We've got four more to win. We'll do it this time. We're happy it's the Heat again. We've got that bad taste in our mouths still.
Beginning the series at home in this year's tilt, the Spurs can ill afford to fall behind.
While Game 1 will go a long way in determining the Heat's chances at a three-peat, it doesn't carry as much impact for the Eastern Conference champions, who have won 11 consecutive playoff series.
Here's everything you need to know going into Thursday's opener.
When: Thursday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, Tex.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Spread: Spurs (-2.5), according to Oddsshark.com.
Game 1 Predictions
Chris Bosh Will Surpass the 20-Point Mark
In both regular-season meetings with the Spurs, the Heat's Chris Bosh led the team with 24 points in each game. Regardless of the game's outcome, expect big things from Bosh again Thursday.
The veteran big man started extremely slowly in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pacers, scoring nine points in each of the first three games of the series, but he finished strong, contributing 25, 20 and 25 points in the final three games.
As ESPN analyst Dick Vitale notes, Bosh's scoring output will be critical to Miami's chances:
Key player 4 Heat to 3 Peat @chrisbosh MUST be a major factor by putting points on the board— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) June 3, 2014
Whether Bosh takes advantage of a mismatch on the perimeter or gets to the foul line, he's sure to be a force offensively in Game 1.
Although he failed to make a single three-pointer in last year's NBA Finals—going a combined 0-of-6 from downtown in seven games—he's added that element to his game over the past year, which will force the Spurs to defend him constantly. He made 74 threes in the 2013-14 regular season—more than his previous six seasons combined.
And while Bosh has always been a gifted scorer, he's become a 40-plus percent three-point shooter in these playoffs, making him a huge threat to San Antonio.
Projected Stat Line: 23 PTS, 8-15 FG, 3-6 3PT, 4-5 FT, 6 REB, 2 AST
Manu Ginobili Will Spark Spurs
Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili has long been San Antonio's fire-starter off the bench, but the Argentine guard has been sensational through the Spurs' first 10 home playoff games in 2014.
He is averaging nearly 16 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting from the floor—including firing an eye-popping 55 percent from beyond the arc.
Over-under 15.5 points for Manu Ginobili in Game 1?
Watch for the 36-year-old to light up Miami in Game 1. After all, Ginobili has connected on three or more three-pointers in five home playoff games in 2014.
Like Bosh, Ginobili poses a significant threat from downtown.
Expect him to pour in at least three triples Thursday. In addition to coveting a fourth championship ring, the three-time NBA champion will be on a personal mission of redemption after he disappeared in last year's NBA Finals.
After dropping in a few long-range shots, Ginobili will open up opportunities for his teammates in the pick-and-roll and other areas. The Heat have a tendency to start slowly on defense, and that will likely be the case as well in Game 1 as they settle into the series.
Projected Stat Line: 20 PTS, 7-12 FG, 3-5 3PT, 5-5 FT, 4 REB, 5 AST
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