NBA Finals preview: Four key factors for Spurs vs Heat

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Miami and San Antonio will match up for the second straight year, what are the keys to winning the championship for both teams?

The 2013 NBA Finals were one of the greatest in history, as the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs went down to the wire in the battle for the title.

LeBron James and the Heat triumphed in Game 7, but the moment that will live long in the memory was Ray Allen's clutch three-pointer that snatched victory away from San Antonio in Game 6.

The rematch promises to be just as exciting. Here are the key factors that will decide who ends the season as NBA champions.

Tony Parker's injury

If the ankle sprain suffered by Tony Parker in the final game of the Western Conference Finals is serious enough to force him to miss multiple games, it will be almost impossible for the Spurs to beat the Heat. The point guard is the man that keeps Gregg Popovich's offensive machine ticking over, and although San Antonio managed to beat the Thunder without him in Game 6, it is unlikely they could do so against Miami for a full series.

While Parker didn't have the best series in last year's Finals, his offensive talent forces the Heat to put either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James on him, freeing up either Kawhi Leonard or Manu Ginobili to attack.

Home court advantage

In the 2013 Finals, the Heat certainly profited from having home court advantage over the Spurs. Each side won one game on their opponent's turf, but when Miami took Game 6 they became overwhelming favourites to close out the series at home.

This year, however, San Antonio finished the regular season with the league's best record. After coming so close to winning the title on the Heat's floor last year, they will certainly feel confident that they can take victory in the rematch.

Norris Cole's defense

Norris Cole has seen a significant boost in his playing time over the course of the playoffs, with his minutes almost matching those of starting point guard Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Cole's main attribute is his ability to play stifling defense – he is quick and athletic and keeps the opposing ball-carrier ahead of him.

If Tony Parker shows any signs of wear and tear when he returns from injury, expect to see Cole guard him for long stretches. It would be a big boost to Miami's chances if Cole can take care of Parker and free up James and Wade.

The coaching battle

It is no coincidence that the NBA's two best teams are also arguably the best-coached teams in the league. With all the talent that will be on the floor in these Finals, the championship may come down to the battle of the men on the sidelines.

Gregg Popovich has spent all season tinkering with his lineups with this series in mind, and he will certainly have some tricks up his sleeve. Erik Spoelstra, meanwhile, has shown some coaching masterstrokes during the playoffs – his decision to start Rashard Lewis against the Pacers was rewarded with nine three-pointers over the three games. The tweaks made by the coaches and how they react to each other could very well determine where the title ends up.