(SportsNetwork.com) - One of the league's marquee matchups every season takes center stage Thursday, a rematch of the NBA Finals, when the Miami Heat visit the San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat prevailed in seven games in June for their second consecutive title. The series was intense, immensely entertaining and heart-breaking for a Spurs team that appeared to have wrapped up yet another championship until Ray Allen chucked in a miracle 3-pointer to win Game 6.
The teams seem ready for another run to a ring. Miami owns the third-best record in the league and the Spurs are fourth, although the sides are separated by mere fractional points in terms of winning percentage. Both trail the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder, the respective conference leaders, by just 1 1/2 games.
"It's always fun going against a very, very-well coached, very-well machined organization and team with so many great players," James said. "It should be fun."
The Spurs head into Thursday's tilt on a four-game winning streak. Three of those victories came at the AT&T Center, where San Antonio has actually won four straight.
The most recent win on this run came Tuesday night as the Spurs dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers, 122-101 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
Danny Green led six San Antonio players in double figures with 24 points, while Kawhi Leonard added 18 points, Patty Mills and Boris Diaw both scored 16 and Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli finished with 11 apiece for the Spurs.
Noticeably absent in that scoring rampage were both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. They both had seven points apiece, but the Spurs were brilliant offensively, shooting 42.4 percent from long range and handing out 39 assists on 43 made field goals.
"That was pretty impressive. That doesn't happen often," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of those assist totals. "We've been doing that all year long, but that's a ridiculous ratio right there. I was really proud of them. They did a great job."
The Spurs will host the Orlando Magic Saturday night on this mini homestand, then visit Chicago on Tuesday.
The Heat had an eight-game winning streak snapped Tuesday night with a 106-103 road loss to the Houston Rockets. It was the start of a very tough three-game trip that will see the two-time defending champs visit Chicago on Sunday afternoon.
One night after scoring a career-high and franchise-record 61 points, LeBron James was held to 22 against the Rockets. On Wednesday, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February
Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley each deposited 24 points to lead the Heat, who had a chance to tie things late after an unforced Houston turnover, but James' deep 3-pointer was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
The Rockets never trailed in this one, but the Heat tied it with 7:39 remaining.
"It didn't go our way," said Wade. "In the third quarter, they got off to a bigger lead than we needed them to get to. They have a team that can score the ball and we gave them too much of a cushion. We used up so much energy to get back in trying to come back. It was a very good game."
The Heat prevailed in the Finals and have dominated this series in the regular season, as well.
Miami has won five in a row over the Spurs, including a 12-point victory in South Beach on Jan. 26. The Spurs have taken 12 of the last 14 regular-season meetings in San Antonio.