After advancing through their respective conference finals in six games, the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat meet in a rematch of the epic 2013 NBA Finals. Before getting into more in-depth breakdowns of things to look for in this series leading up to Thursday’s Game 1, below are a few factoids about the match up.
San Antonio outscored Miami by five points over the course of the 2013 Finals, becoming only the 11th runner-up to do so, and the first since Detroit lost in seven games to the Spurs in 2005. The five-point gap was the eighth narrowest overall scoring margin in Finals history and the closest since the Bulls outscored the Jazz by 11 points over six games in 1997.
This is the first repeat Finals matchup since the 1998 Finals when the Bulls beat the Jazz for the second straight year. It is the 11th time the same two teams have met in the Finals in NBA history, and the fifth since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976.
Of the four previous post-merger matchups, the Bulls were the only team to repeat as champions in the rematch. Interestingly, the previous three repeat match-ups all involved the Lakers splitting results over consecutive seasons with the Pistons, Celtics and 76ers respectively. The Washington Bullets and Seattle SuperSonics traded victories in the 1978 and 1979 Finals, as well.
Since the merger and including this season, 17 champions and 12 runners-up have made the Finals the next season. Nine of the 16 returning champions repeated, while all but two of the runners-up broke through the following season, with only the 2001-03 New Jersey Nets and the aforementioned 1996-98 Jazz losing consecutive Finals.
|2013||Miami Heat||San Antonio Spurs|
|2012||Miami Heat||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|2011||Dallas Mavericks||Miami Heat|
|2010||Los Angeles Lakers||Boston Celtics|
|2009||Los Angeles Lakers||Orlando Magic|
|2008||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2007||San Antonio Spurs||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2006||Miami Heat||Dallas Mavericks|
|2005||San Antonio Spurs||Detroit Pistons|
|2004||Detroit Pistons||Los Angeles Lakers|
|2003||San Antonio Spurs||New Jersey Nets|
|2002||Los Angeles Lakers||New Jersey Nets|
|2001||Los Angeles Lakers||Philadelphia 76ers|
|2000||Los Angeles Lakers||Indiana Pacers|
|1999||San Antonio Spurs||New York Knicks|
|1998||Chicago Bulls||Utah Jazz|
|1997||Chicago Bulls||Utah Jazz|
With some minor changes, these are fairly similar rosters which met last year. A total of 89 percent of the minutes played in the 2013 Finals are represented on the respective squads. As is usual for a defending champion returning to the Finals, the Heat have slightly more continuity, with 90.2 percent of their minutes played in the 2013 Finals still on their roster, whereas the Spurs return 87.9 percent of their 2013 Finals minutes. Only the Chicago-Utah rematch featured substantially more roster continuity, mainly because of the Jazz being the only returning Finals team since the merger to return every player who appeared during the previous Finals. It perhaps should not then be surprising the 1998 Finals lasted 6 games, just as did the 1997 Finals.
Both squads are roughly at the median for previous seasons’ winners and losers returning, though both are slightly above the aggregate average due to a few repeat Finalists (notably the 1995 Rockets, how returned only 57.9 percent of their 1994 Finals minutes after trading for Clyde Drexler in the middle of the 1994-95 season). Since the merger, this Heat squad is 10th out of 17 winning repeat Finalists, while the Spurs are sixth of 12 returning runners-up.
And of course, as Spurs fans will be reminded approximately 15,000 times over the next two weeks, Ray Allen returns to the Finals, so expect to see this shot replayed over and over again:
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Seth Partnow lives in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, daughter and dog. He blogs about the NBA and related topics at WhereOffenseHappens.com. His work can also be found at Hickory-High.com and ESPN’s ClipperBlog.com, where he is a regular contributor. Seth can be reached on twitter @WhrOffnsHppns.