Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals is finally here. Although the last playoff game was only five days ago, it has felt much longer than that.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, as basketball fans everywhere have become accustomed to watching at least one playoff game almost every night since April 19. The action has been intense.
No wonder nearly a week free of postseason action has felt like an eternity. Thankfully, we don't have to wait much longer.
Importance of Game 1
While each and every game is vital in a seven-game series, Game 1 stands out as one of the most important. Per ESPN's Marc Stein, 70 percent of the teams that win Game 1 of the NBA Finals win the championship. However, Stein points out a key change this year that could alter that statistic.
"Don't forget, though, that the Finals format has reverted back to 2-2-1-1-1 for the first time since 1984."
It shouldn't come as a surprise if the Spurs win Game 1, as the team has taken the opening game in 10 consecutive series.
However, the winner of Game 1 isn't a sure bet to win the series. As many might recall, the Spurs went to Miami to open last year's Finals and managed to come away with a victory, only to lose the series in seven games.
Just how remarkable was that outcome? According to ESPN Stats & Info, "San Antonio is 22-4 in best-of-7 series when winning Game 1 with Gregg Popovich as their head coach."
Miami is 2-1 in Game 1s this postseason, with the loss coming on the road at Indiana. But if the Heat lose to San Antonio tonight, don't expect them to be rattled. Since LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwyane Wade, Miami has yet to lose a postseason series (5-0) after losing Game 1, per ESPN Stats & Info.
With all that being said, let's take a look at how Thursday night's Game 1 will play out.
Last year's Game 1 saw the Spurs edge the Heat by four points, thanks to a Tony Parker off-balance bank shot with 5.2 seconds left in the game. Parker finished the game with 21 points and six assists while Tim Duncan added 20 points and 14 big rebounds.
As Stein points out, Parker is expected to play on his injured ankle. His minutes will likely be limited, and whether his effectiveness follows suit remains to be seen.
Look for the Spurs' deep, experienced bench to pick up the slack. Expect Manu Ginobili to have a particularly effective game draining long-range bombs, weaving through the paint for layups and breaking down the defense to find shooters on the wing.
While LeBron will notch yet another playoff triple-double, the Heat will fall victim to the Spurs' recent home dominance. San Antonio, determined to avenge last year's painful defeat, will come out hot and stay that way, winning fairly comfortably to take a 1-0 series lead.
Final Score: Spurs 107, Heat 98
Follow Jesse Clark on Twitter: