The 2014 NBA Finals get going on Thursday night in San Antonio, as the NBA’s top-seeded San Antonio Spurs take on the East’s #2 seed, the Miami Heat.

The Heat and Spurs will engage in a rematch of last year’s epic seven-game Finals showdown that could have easily ended with a Spurs title. Ray Allen hit a last second three pointer to vault the Heat to a dramatic win, however, and they were able to close out the series and win the title in game seven.

Going into this year’s Finals series, the Spurs seem dead set on getting revenge. They’re certainly the more battle tested team this far in the playoffs, as San Antonio has barreled their way through the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder to get to this point. The Heat, meanwhile, had an easy first round matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats, didn’t seem to have too much trouble with the Brooklyn Nets and had full control in an overly hyped duel with the Indiana Pacers.

The Spurs have the mental edge in two ways to get these Finals going, as they have major revenge on the brain, while they’ll also have their home crowd cheering them on in game one. Star point guard Tony Parker (ankle) likely won’t be 100%, but practiced on Wednesday and looks like he’ll be able to start the game.

It doesn’t all come down to Parker for the Spurs, though, as the point guard matchups are the least of their worries. They also happen to be the deepest team in the entire league, so even if Parker has to stick to limited minutes, a combination of Corey Joseph and Patty Mills can get the Spurs by until Parker’s health improves.

The early key to this series is going to be how the Heat handle San Antonio’s bigs. Tiago Splitter disappeared in the Western Conference Finals, but will absolutely be needed to get through the Heat successfully. He’s bigger and more fundamentally sound than anyone Miami has down low, and how he performs could tell us a lot about how this series might unfold. The play of Tim Duncan will also clearly come into play, as well what Boris Diaw can provide in terms of scoring and rebounding.

The other main key for the Spurs will be Kawhi Leonard and the defensive job he can do on LeBron James. It’s not really possible to completely shut King James down, but the versatile, athletic and long Leonard is built to cover superstars and should give the league’s best player problems.

If San Antonio can win the battle in the paint and somewhat contain James, they have a great shot at winning this series. Whether or not that can do it throughout the NBA Finals is up in the air, but they’re a good bet to get it done in game one at home.

Pick: Spurs 101, Heat 89

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