Anticipation is building for the NBA Finals rematch between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, which starts in San Antonio on Friday:
1 The Spurs have never lost Game 1 of a NBA Finals series. And Miami star LeBron James has never been part of a Game 1 road victory, in any round. San Antonio - who have never played an NBA Finals game while facing a deficit in the series - have won each of their five Game 1s in the title round, doing so by an average of 10.4 points per game.
2 Over the past 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 have a league-best 92 playoff victories, while Miami have won 89 playoff games. The Celtics and Lakers have both won 59 playoff games during that span.
3 Two days without practice is a standard perk for winning a conference title in the NBA these days. The Heat ousted Indiana on Saturday, then took the next two days off to refresh and recharge. The Spurs aren't planning to do anything basketball-related until tomorrow. They eliminated Oklahoma City on Sunday.
4 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.
5 There's US$14 million in the 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 they do not win the finals, and $3,631,684 if they win the championship for the third straight year.