MIAMI (AP) — Five things to watch for in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, as the San Antonio Spurs try to clinch their fifth title and end the Miami Heat's reign on Tuesday night:
HOW THE HEAT START: Even at home, Miami has started games in slow motion during these playoffs. Combined score of first quarters in Miami so far in the postseason: Heat 249, Opponents 247. That's stunning for a team with as much talent as Miami, and probably won't fly for the Heat in a win-or-else Game 6 against the Spurs. Look for the Heat to come out with a sense of urgency from the very beginning of Game 6, as they try to establish a tone for the night, which would presumably keep the Spurs from finding their own rhythm. And then, sustaining whatever early push comes will be key. Two years ago, in the game where Dallas won the title in Miami, it was the Mavericks who fell behind 20-11 early then scored 29 of the game's next 37 points on their way to a victory.
WHO BOTH TEAMS START: The Heat went small in Game 4, inserting Mike Miller into their starting lineup, and got a big win. The Spurs predictably countered in Game 5, inserting Manu Ginobili, and got a big win. So what changes in Game 6? Well, on the Spurs' front, probably very little. It would be a surprise if San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich takes Ginobili out of the starting five now. That is unless Heat coach Erik Spoelstra goes the other way and returns Udonis Haslem to the opening rotation. Odds are Miller stays in Miami's opening five, though the Heat coaching staff will probably have itchy trigger fingers in Game 6. If some lineup isn't working, changes will come, quickly. After all, the stakes couldn't be higher, so there's no time for guys to really play their way through trouble.