MIAMI — Here are five things to know as anticipation builds for the NBA Finals rematch between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. The series starts in San Antonio on Thursday night:
GAME 1 FACTS: The Spurs have never lost Game 1 of an NBA Finals. And Miami star LeBron James has never been part of a Game 1 road victory, in any round.
Maybe. Maybe not.
San Antonio — which has never played an NBA Finals game while facing a deficit in the series — has won each of its five Game 1’s in the title round, doing so by an average of 10.4 points per game.
Including his time in Cleveland, James has been on teams that opened playoff series on the road seven times. They’re 0-7, losing by an average of 12.3 points.
But in four of those seven occurrences, including all three times it’s happened with Miami, James and his team eventually won the series.
ALL THEY DO IS WIN: Over the last decade, no one has come close to matching the playoff win totals of the Spurs and Heat.
Since the start of the 2005 playoffs, including the first three rounds this year, San Antonio has a league-best 92 playoff victories, while Miami has won 89 playoff games.
No other franchise is even close: The Celtics and Lakers have both won 59 playoff games during that span.
Miami has the best playoff winning percentage in the last 10 postseasons, its mark there of .654 just edging San Antonio’s mark of .626.
There’s six teams who don’t even have 10 wins in the last 10 years — the Knicks (7), Raptors (6), Bucks (4), Kings (3), Bobcats-now-Hornets (0) and Timberwolves (not just zero wins, but also zero playoff games played).
A LAST BIT OF REST: Apparently, two days without practice is a standard perk for winning a conference title in the NBA these days.
The Heat ousted Indiana on Friday night, then took Saturday and Sunday off to refresh and recharge. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra summoned his team for practice on Monday morning.
The Spurs aren’t planning to do anything officially basketball-related until Tuesday. They eliminated Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and had no practices scheduled on either Sunday or Monday — which, if nothing else, figures to give Tony Parker plenty of time to work on improving the condition of his sprained left ankle.
Parker sat out the second half of the Spurs’ West-clinching win at Oklahoma City because of the ankle problem.
RESPECT LEVEL: Oh, there will be a high level of physicality in this series, for certain.
But something like, say, blowing into an opponent’s ear, we can safely dismiss that as a realistic possibility during these NBA Finals.
There is genuine respect between the franchises, perhaps best proven by how Spurs coach Gregg Popovich warmly embraced any Heat player or coach he could reach after Game 7 ended a year ago.
Frankly, the Heat won’t miss the Lance Stephenson-antics — like blowing into LeBron James’ ear — and the endless questions about those moves.
“It’s an annoyance,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “It’s nice we don’t have to deal with that anymore. … It’s about basketball and not all of the chicanery that went on.”
MONEY AT STAKE: There’s $14 million in the league’s playoff pool this season, and as if the Heat and Spurs weren’t motivated enough by the chance to hold another Larry O’Brien Trophy, there’s also some cash at stake.
The Spurs are already assured of taking home a total of $3,268,347 from that pool, a figure that would rise to $4,104,811 by winning the NBA championship.
Miami will get a payout of $2,795,220 if it does not win the finals, and $3,631,684 if it wins the championship for the third straight year.
The pool pays out based on where teams finished in their conference in the regular season, which explains the discrepancy in what the Spurs and Heat have earned so far. There’s also a difference of $836,464 in what teams receive for winning or losing the finals.