Miami Heat will face San Antonio Spurs in the first game of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on Thursday night in their bid to become the fourth franchise (first since 2002) to win three consecutive NBA titles.
This is the first championship series re-match since 1998, and last year's runnersup San Antonio would be aiming to go one step further this time to clinch their fifth title.
Last year, the Heat won the championship in a series that went down to the wire. The Spurs could have won the series when they were 3-2 up in the Finals and leading the sixth game. Miami rallied back and clinched the tie in overtime (103-100) and then went on to win the Finals in the series decider at home.
"I think it's great that these two franchises have this opportunity in back-to-back years to compete for a championship," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "Last year was an unbelievable series and... it went down to the very end. We won the series by a total of five points, you know? That's how close it was. But it was a very even series. I think this year it could be another great series."
LeBron James is making his fifth Finals appearance in eight years and he played a crucial role in Miami's title triumph last season. This is Miami's fourth straight appearance in the biggest series of the season and James said the team is not heading to the Finals with previous results in mind.
"If you look at the numbers, the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it's almost even," James said. "So we did our part, they did their part. Both teams put themselves in a position to win an NBA championship, and we just happened to make one or two more plays to win it.
"Last year is last year and we're excited about it, but this trophy this year belongs to nobody. It's up for grabs."
San Antonio's Tony Parker is expected to play in the opener despite not being 100 percent fit. A left ankle injury, which he sustained against the Dallas Mavericks and re-aggravated against the Oklahoma City Thunder, made Parker miss the second half of the Western Conference finals.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Parker is doing fine, but the 32-year-old admitted he is a bit concerned about his injury heading into the first game.
"A little bit because you never know how it's going to feel," Parker said. "But I'm trying to be very positive, trying to do everything I can, eat healthy, get my rest, do all the treatment. I just trust my body."
Where to Watch Live
The game is scheduled for a 9:00 pm ET (6:30 am IST, 1:00 am GMT) start with live coverage on ABC in the US and Sony Six and Sony Six HD in India. The game can be watched via live streaming option in the US HERE or HERE. The game can be live streamed by international viewers, including India, HERE.