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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
History points both ways for Game 6

By ESPN Stats & Info


AP Photo/Lynne SladkyLeBron James is averaging 31.5 points per game in games in which his team faced playoff elimination
Historical storylines abound going into Tuesday's Game 6. Can the San Antonio Spurs continue their road closeout dominance? Will LeBron James have another big scoring game to stave off elimination?

Here's a look at the numbers in support of each team.

Why the Spurs Will Win
The Spurs enter Game 6 leading the series 3-2. Teams up 3-2 in the Finals have gone on to win the series 83.3 percent of the time (35-7) all-time. Since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985, teams up 3-2 have gone on to win the NBA Finals a virtually identical 82.4 percent of the time (14-3).

Even with the final two games of the series in Miami, the Spurs have recent history on their side.

The Spurs are an NBA-best 14-2 in potential series clinching games on the road in the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili era since 2002-03. Those 14 wins are six more than any other team over that span.
Gregg Popovich is 19-5 when his team had a chance to clinch a playoff series on the road. Only one head coach in NBA history has a higher career winning percentage than Popovich in those games (min: 2 games): Tom Heinsohn (8-1, .889).

The Spurs closed out each of their previous three series on the road this postseason, taking down the Lakers, Warriors and Grizzlies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams in NBA history have won four series clinching games on the road in a single postseason: the 1989 Pistons and 1999 Spurs.

San Antonio is just one win away from its fifth NBA Title and would remain one of just two teams in NBA history with multiple NBA titles without a Finals loss (Bulls, 6-0). It would also be their first NBA Finals series win without home-court advantage.

Why the Heat Will Win
Not surprisingly, it all starts with LeBron James.

He’s averaging 31.5 points per game in his career when facing playoff elimination. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest for any player in NBA history (min. five games). In fact, only Michael Jordan (31.3) and Wilt Chamberlain (31.1) are also above the 30 PPG threshold.



The Heat have been here before. In 2012, they climbed back from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Miami couldn’t pull it off in the 2011 NBA Finals, falling to the Mavericks 4-2.

Only three teams under the current format have won the NBA Finals after trailing 3-2 with the remaining two games at home. Most recently, the Lakers came back to beat the Celtics in 2010.
On the most basic level, it’s the Heat’s turn on Tuesday. Neither team has won back-to-back games in this series, just the third time that’s happened through five games of the NBA Finals since 1985.

Miami has been dominant following a loss this postseason, winning all six games by an average of 20.7 points. The Heat haven’t lost back-to-back games since January 8-10, going 12-0 following a loss since then.