The Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs face each other for the NBA title for the second year in a row. The 2014 NBA Finals start Thursday in San Antonio. Here's a preview of what to expect:

How They Got Here:

Second-seeded Miami (54-28) swept seventh-seeded Charlotte in the first round of the playoffs, breezed past sixth-seeded Brooklyn in five games in the second round, and overwhelmed top-seeded Indiana, four games to two, in the Eastern Conference finals.

Top-seeded San Antonio (62-20) outlasted eighth-seeded Dallas in seven games in the first round, blasted fifth-seeded Portland in five games in the second round, and dispatched talented, second-seeded Oklahoma City in six games in the Western Conference finals.

The teams split their two meetings during the regular season. The Heat beat the Spurs in seven games in the 2013 NBA Finals. Miami is seeking its third straight NBA championship and making its fourth straight appearance in the finals.


Getty Images
Getty Images

For Miami To Repeat As NBA Champs, They Must...

Let LeBron James Lead: As has been the case for years, Heat forward LeBron James presents a match-up nightmare for any opponent. Miami has been most effective this post-season when the perennial MVP candidate leads the offense, choosing whether to shoot more often or pass to his supporting cast. James is -26 in Heat losses this post season; he's +136 in wins.

Rebound Better: The Heat was the worst rebounding team in the NBA playoffs through the conference finals, averaging just 34.6 rebounds a game over 15 contests. Miami lost the rebounding battle in all three of its post-season defeats. Front court role players like Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem have to hit the boards and allow Lebron James and Dwyane Wade to concentrate on getting out on fast break opportunities.

Control Tony Parker: LeBron James' defense on Spurs' point guard Tony Parker was key in Miami's victory in Game 7 of last year's finals. The Heat won't want James to spend all of his time checking Parker this series, so Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have to help keep him from controlling the tempo.


Getty Images
Getty Images

For San Antonio To Win The NBA Title, They Must...

Set The Tempo: The Spurs have battled — and eliminated — three of the league's most dynamic offenses in the post-season by scoring off turnovers and moving the ball in the half-court offense. San Antonio can run with the Heat, but it's in the Spurs' interest to control the pace of the game and exploit mismatches on center Tim Duncan, guard Manu Ginobili and forward Kawhi Leonard.

Control LeBron and D-Wade: Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are able to create their own shots from just about anywhere on the court. San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green must check James and Wade respectively and force Chris Bosh, Shane Battier or another Miami player, like Ray Allen, to step up and beat them.

Use Their Depth: Whether its through fouling the Heat's stars or making Miami work harder on defense, the Spurs need to find ways to wear Miami down with their superior depth. San Antonio's bench frequently outscores other teams, but they'll need to be even more productive in the NBA Finals.

2014 NBA Finals Schedule

Game 1 at San Antonio: Thursday, June 5, 9 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
Game 2 at San Antonio: Sunday, June 8, 8 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
Game 3 at Miami: Tuesday, June 10, 9 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
Game 4 at Miami: Thursday, June 12, 9 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
*Game 5 at San Antonio: Sunday, June 15; 8 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
*Game 6 at Miami: Tuesday, June 17; 9 p.m. ET; ABC-TV
*Game 7 at San Antonio: Friday, June 20; 9 p.m. ET; ABC-TV

Best-of-seven series
* — if necessary

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