Basketball / Sports

Mariachis perform before the San Antonio Spurs play host to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, June 5, 2014, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. (Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

Mental games not in the plans for Spurs

SAN ANTONIO -- San Antonio Spurs guard Danny Green has no intention of agitating the Miami Heat's LeBron James during the NBA Finals.

When asked if he planned to behave remotely like Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson did in the Eastern Conference finals, Green could only smile.

"Not on purpose," Green said, laughing.

Stephenson's antics overshadowed the actual play on the court during the series. He created a stir with off-the-court comments to the media in an attempt to get under James' skin. It reached a boil when Stephenson blew in James' ear during a break in play.

The Spurs would prefer to avoid the mind games.

"We think it's in our best interest to try to not talk trash," Green said. "From their history, if you look at the past, those guys as All-Stars, as Hall of Famers, have shown that stuff doesn't work against them. That only makes them better. We kind of don't' want to wake a sleeping giant."

The Heat have been at their best when challenged mentally. In the conference semifinals, Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce said he wanted to guard James, who responded by scoring 49 points the next game.

"I don't see that happening," Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. "Someone gets in your head if you let them, but I don't believe in it."

PARKER GOOD TO GO

Spurs guard Tony Parker was in the starting lineup despite dealing with ankle soreness.

Parker missed the second half of Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder because of the injury. He was cleared to play after completing a workout during the team's morning shootaround.

The positive was Parker said he was experiencing no pain from the hamstring injury that bothered him in the conference semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers.

"We weren't waiting in anticipation that he wasn't going to play," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We anticipated that he would play."

EXPERIENCE THE KEY

Last year Green and forward Kawhi Leonard were completely new to the Finals experience.

Now, they expect familiarity to be a factor in improved play. Both are making their second appearance in the championship series. Green, who made a Finals-record 25 3-pointers, was a strong candidate to win series MVP before Tim Duncan dominated the last two games.

"Last year was my first year experiencing it," Green said. "Now, I kind of know what to expect ... A lot of our guys coming back are able to know what to expect after our first Finals."

Leonard showed he was a budding star by playing solid defense against James. He also averaged 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds.

"Just the second time going around, but it's not going to be easier at all," said Leonard, who was named to the NBA's second-team All-Defensive Team. "It's going to be a very tough series. I just have to make sure I play defense."

While Leonard thrived in the series, he will most be remembered for missing a late free throw that would have sealed Game 6. It left an opportunity for the Heat guard Ray Allen to make the 3-pointer that forced overtime.

Leonard said he never thought about it in the offseason.

"I was focused on getting my knee healthy," he said.

PLANNING FOR A HEALTHY WADE

Coach Gregg Popovich said the Spurs will plan no differently for Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

Last year Wade was hobbled by knee pain, but has looked healthy during this postseason.

"We game-planned for Dwyane Wade last year also," Popovich said. "He's Dwyane Wade whether he's totally healthy or not. He finds a way to suck it up and get it done if he's not in great health. We saw that in Game 6 and 7 last year."

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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