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The Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships, are in the Finals for the fourth year in a row and have the best player on the planet.

Other than that, the Spurs don't face much of a challenge in the Finals, right?

Or, put another way, how can a team with LeBron James, the most dominant player of his generation, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh not win it all again?

Short answer: when it faces a Spurs team hell bent on redeeming itself after coming excruciatingly close to dethroning Miami last year.

Making back-to-back appearances in the Finals for the first time in their history, the Spurs host the Heat in Game 1 at 8 p.m. Thursday. Given the show the teams put on last year, the rematch will be one of the most anticipated NBA series in recent memory.

As their credentials clearly indicate, the Heat are a bona fide juggernaut by any measure. Miami joined elite company when it beat the Indiana Pacers for the Eastern Conference crown last Friday night, becoming only the third franchise in NBA history to advance to the Finals four years in a row.

The other two? The Boston Celtics (1984-87) and Los Angeles Lakers (1982-85).

Now the Heat are four victories away from joining the Celtics, Lakers and Chicago Bulls as the only NBA franchises in history to win three consecutive championships.

Parker's ankle injury wild card in Finals

The Heat will not become members of that exclusive club this year.

After letting the championship slip through their hands last season, the Spurs are going to finish the job this time. They will beat the Heat, but there's a caveat here.

The Spurs can't win the championship without point guard Tony Parker, who missed the second half and overtime of their series-clinching win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference finals with a sprained left ankle.

If Parker's ankle holds up, the series won't go the distance.

It says here the Silver and Black will win it in six games.

And if Parker's can't go? Well, you know the answer to that question. While the Spurs have great depth, it's a stretch to believe they could beat the defending NBA champions without their best player on the floor.

But I don't think it will come to that. By the time the Finals start, Parker will have had five days of rest and rehab work. Ankle sprains can be tricky, but Parker should be ready for Game 1.

After having their hearts ripped out in Miami last year, when they were 28 seconds away from winning the Finals in six games and were a basket from tying the Heat in the final minute of Game 7, the Spurs are not going to be denied this time.

Spurs watched film of Game 6 in Finals before starting camp

The bitter memories of those last two games in last year's Finals have driven the Silver and Black since they walked off the court at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Still, just to make sure, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich showed his players the film of Game 6 before the team started training camp last October.

Popovich talked about the painful hangover of the Finals, particularly Game 6, when he spoke to reporters on media day Sept. 30.

Suffice to say I've thought about it every day, he said. I'm wondering if it'll go away. I'm anxious for it to happen, but it hasn't happened yet. We had our opportunities, especially in Game 6, to win.

We didn't take advantage of it, and that's unfortunate. I thought we came back really well in Game 7 after such a devastating loss. But four players from Miami stepped up and took the championship in Game 7, and they deserved it. We could have won the championship in Game 6. There's no doubt about that.

No, there isn't.

The Spurs used their Game 6 meltdown as fuel to be better this season and they were. They finished the regular season a league-best 62-20, and set a franchise record for road victories with 30.

After surviving a scare from No. 8 seed Dallas in a tough seven-game series in the first round, the Spurs knocked out Portland 4-1 in the conference semifinals before taking six games to send the Thunder on vacation.

Spurs won last of its four championships in 2007

And so we're back to where we were a year ago.

Yes, the Heat are loaded and James can take over a game the way Michael Jordan could. They have an air of invincibility about them and a champion s pedigree.

James, Wade and Bosh are well on their way to way to becoming one of the most successful trios in league history. That is,if Miami can keep them together.

After finally vanquishing the Thunder in the conference finals, and having to contend with league MVP Kevin Durant, All-Star Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, the Spurs are playing at a high level.

Andit's not like the Silver and Blackdon't have a championship pedigree themselves, although it s been seven years since they won their last title.

Before boarding the team flight to Oklahoma City for Game 6, Popovich was asked if this is one of the most motivated Spurs teams he's ever coached.

I wouldn't say that any one of our teams has been more driven than any other one, but this particular team showed great resolve by not having a pity party after losing in the Finals so dramatically, and then coming back this year and playing the way they have, Popovich said. They deserve credit for that. But that's not what they want. They don't want credit. They want to go win.

And so they will.

NBA Finals
Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Game 1: Heat at Spurs, Thursday, 8 p.m.
Game 2: Heat at Spurs, Sunday, June 8, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Spurs at Heat, Tuesday, June 10, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Spurs at Heat, Thursday, June 12,8p.m.
Game 5, if necessary: Heat at Spurs, Sunday, June 15,7 p.m.
Game 6, if necessary: Spurs at Heat, Tuesday, June 17, 8 p.m.
Game 7, if necessary: Heat at Spurs, Friday, June 20, 8 p.m.
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