AP Basketball Writer
A capsule look at the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, which begin Thursday night (with playoff stats):
MIAMI HEAT (66-16, 12-5) vs. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (58-24, 12-2).
Starters: Heat -- C Chris Bosh (12.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), F Udonis Haslem (6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg), F LeBron James (26.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.4 apg), G Dwyane Wade (14.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.9 apg), G Mario Chalmers (8.9 ppg, 3.5 apg). Spurs -- C Tim Duncan (17.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg), F Tiago Splitter (6.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg), F Kawhi Leonard (13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg), G Danny Green (9.6 ppg, 4.1 apg), G Tony Parker (23.0 ppg, 7.2 apg.)
Key reserves: Heat -- G Ray Allen (10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg), F Chris Andersen (7.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg), G Norris Cole (7.1 ppg, 2.1 apg), F Shane Battier (4.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg), G/F Mike Miller (2.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg), C Joel Anthony (0.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg). Spurs -- G Manu Ginobili (11.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.4 apg), G Gary Neal (5.5 ppg, 0.6 apg), F Matt Bonner (5.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg), F Boris Diaw (4.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg), G Cory Joseph (3.4 ppg, 1.3 apg), F DeJuan Blair (4.0 ppg, 1.8 apg).
Season series: Heat, 2-0. Little can be taken from the regular-season series, with neither matchup featuring both teams at full strength. The Spurs rested Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Danny Green in the first matchup, sending them home early before the Nov. 29 finale of their road trip, and Miami beat the guys who did stick around, 105-100. The Heat finished the sweep on March 31 at San Antonio despite playing without James, Wade and Chalmers, who they said were injured. Bosh averaged 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in the road victory.
Story line: The Heat try to win their second straight title, while the Spurs seek their first since 2007 and fifth overall. They beat James to win their most recent one, a sweep of Cleveland, but the league's MVP comes with plenty of help this time on a much more powerful Miami squad that had the league's best record.
Key matchup I: James vs. Leonard. The Spurs had an ace defender to throw at James last time in Bruce Bowen, and they could help him without much fear of anyone else on the Cavaliers beating them. Not this time. Leonard is a terrific young player and is more polished offensively than Bowen, shooting 56.5 percent in the postseason, but isn't quite the defender yet. And James' game, from a more reliable jumper to a better developed post attack, is miles from where it was when he was a fourth-year player.
Key matchup II: Bosh vs. Duncan. Bosh will be thrilled to get away from Indiana's rugged defenders, even if he moves right into a matchup with one of the NBA's top all-around big men. Two strong games against the Spurs this season should give him confidence -- though he had to face San Antonio's A-team in only one of them -- as should some strong moments in Game 7 against the Pacers even as he still shot the ball poorly. At 37, Duncan isn't the focal point of the Spurs' offense at this stage, but he provided the biggest plays when they needed them, dominating the overtime periods twice in the Western Conference finals sweep of Memphis.
X-factor: Wade. His Hall of Fame credentials should put him well beyond an "X-factor" category, but his health and recent shaky performances indicate that's exactly what he is. He's been battling knee pain and doesn't appear capable of playing his best every night -- his 21 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals were more than he totaled in the previous two games combined -- and the question is whether he can put together four good performances now.
Prediction: Heat in 6.
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