MIAMI » Over the past 10 seasons, only one NBA player has been part of more wins than LeBron James. His name is Tim Duncan.
NBA FINALS: GAME 1
Their numbers over that decade are incredibly similar. Duncan has appeared in 622 regular-season and playoff victories, James has played in 621. Duncan is shooting 50.2 percent from the field, James is shooting 50 percent. Duncan has won two championships with San Antonio during this 10-season stretch, James has two with Miami.
Plus, when facing each other in the NBA Finals, both have won one, lost one.
Here comes the tiebreaker — a Finals rematch that will have high expectations.
Miami and San Antonio are the league’s last two teams standing for the second consecutive year, their next chapter starting on the Spurs’ home floor Thursday night. The Heat won a wild series last season for their second straight championship, needing a frantic rally to avoid elimination in Game 6 and then riding the strength of a 37-point, 12-rebound effort from James to top the Spurs in Game 7.
"I think our guys, they actually grew from the loss last year," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
It’s the league’s first Finals rematch since Chicago and Utah played in 1997 and 1998.
Tim Reynolds, Associated Press
HEAT VS. SPURS: HOW THEY MATCH UP
Tim Duncan vs. Chris Bosh. Bosh started the play that saved Miami’s season last year in Game 6, grabbing an offensive rebound to set up Ray Allen’s tying 3-pointer. He then went scoreless in Game 7, but showed he could hurt the Spurs offensively with a pair of 24-point outings this season. Duncan, who had 23 on 9-for-13 shooting in both games, gets another crack at a fifth ring after a pair of misses from close range in the final minute helped doom the Spurs in Game 7 last year.
Tiago Splitter/Matt Bonner/Boris Diaw vs. Rashard Lewis. Splitter had to go to the bench when the Spurs went small in the conference finals and Lewis got to start when the Heat did the same in their series, so it’s unclear what the teams will do now. Diaw, who had 26 points in the finale of the Western Conference finals and averaged 15.5 against the Heat this season, might be the best option. Lewis hit nine 3-pointers over the final two games of the East finals, so the Heat may want to stick with the hot hand.
LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard. Leonard goes from Kevin Durant in the West finals to James, the MVP of the last two NBA Finals. He had 37 points and 12 rebounds last year in Game 7, while Leonard was perhaps the Spurs’ best player that night with 19 points and 16 boards. He helped force James into a 6-for-18 night in the Spurs’ March 6 victory, but James won’t be wearing the sleeved jerseys that he said affected him then.
Danny Green vs. Dwyane Wade. Green was headed for an NBA Finals MVP award through five games last year, when he set the finals record with 25 3-pointers, but he was only 2-for-11 behind the arc over the final two. Wade is showing the benefits of a schedule that featured plenty of rest for his sore knees during the regular season and is averaging 18.7 points on 52 percent shooting in the postseason after he had struggled leading into this round last year.
Tony Parker vs. Mario Chalmers. Parker missed the second half of San Antonio’s Game 6 clincher in the West finals with left ankle soreness, and the Spurs will need their All-Star to heal up before Thursday. If so, the Spurs are back to having a clear advantage at the position after having to face Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook in the previous two rounds.
Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, Splitter/Diaw/Bonner, Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli vs. Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and James Jones. Ginobili is healthier and Mills is much improved off what appears to be a far stronger bench than San Antonio brought to the NBA Finals last year. Allen has had a strong postseason and Anderson hit all four shots in Game 6 against Indiana after missing the previous two games with a thigh injury.
Gregg Popovich vs. Erik Spoelstra. The rare criticism Popovich was hearing for the lineup he had on the floor at the end of the Game 6 loss to the Heat last year has been forgotten. He won the Coach of the Year award for leading the Spurs to the NBA’s best record, and remains considered the league’s best coach. But Spoelstra will be within one title of him if he wins this series and always seems to make the right move for his team, from managing Wade’s health to going small with Lewis against the Pacers.