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NBA Finals Preview: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat
MILWAUKEE, WI – APRIL 28: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat “high fives” teammates during a time out against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Bradley Center on April 28, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Heat defeated the Bucks 88-77. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Thursday night the San Antonio Spurs will collide with the Miami Heat for Game One in the NBA Finals. The Spurs were the dominant NBA team of the past and Heat are the dominant NBA team of the present. Now, the two teams square off to decide the winner of the 2013 Larry O’Brien Trophy.

For the Spurs, Tim Duncan is the face of their franchise. Duncan’s first NBA finals appearance was in 1999, which is 13 years ago. Now, the Big Fundamental is going for a fifth ring, and trying to beat LeBron James for a second time in the NBA Finals. (Duncan’s Spurs’ beat James’ Cavaliers in the 2007 Finals.) However, this time, it’s not all Duncan’s team, but mostly Tony Parker’s team. Parker is averaging 23.0 points, 7.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting 37.5% from long range, and 47.5% from the field in the 2013 postseason.

The Spurs “Big Three” have been led by Parker. Duncan has averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks while shooting 46.1% from the field. Duncan’s biggest part of his game has been his ability to knock jumpers, along with his knack to take it inside and battle in the post. Manu Ginobili, the other member of the Spurs “Big Three,” has averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.4 steals while shooting an astounding 71.2% from long range, and 38.3% from the field.

Outside of the Spurs “Big Three,” Kawhi Leonard has been the silent assassin for the Spurs, and will be key to helping shut down James. He can score, but will play great defense and rebound. He’s averaged 13.0 points, 8.0 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.7 blocks.

For James, the NBA MVP is trying to win his second title with the Heat. James has had to learn to be both the facilitator and the playmaker. James is averaging 26.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and shooting 38.7% from long range and 51.4% from the field. James has had do this with subpar performances from the Heat’s “Big Three,” as Dwyane Wade has battled injuries (knee) and Chris Bosh has played poorly (most notably 3-for-13 in Game 7). Wade is averaging just 14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 25% from long range and 44.7% from the field in. Bosh, meanwhile, has averaged 12. 3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists while shooting 48.4% from long range, and 45.7% from the field.

For Miami, with the struggles Wade and Bosh have dealt with, James has had to step up, along with key role players. Most notably, Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, and Mike Miller. Andersen missed Game 6 due to suspension, but has shot lights out, (77.8% over last 5 games) and played solid defense. Haslem has provided quality minutes (about 20.2 over last five games), and played well, most notably in Game 3 when he had 17 points, (8-for-9 from the field). Miller has came on the last two games, playing 17, and 12 minutes, and has knocked down timely three pointers that have sparked momentum for the Heat.
In what should be a great series, starting off in Miami for Game One, both teams are led by great players, but great coaches, as Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra go head to head on the sidelines.

The NBA Finals start at 8 p.m. CDT on ABC on Thursday night.

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