NBA Finals 2014: How Data Spurs Heat

As always, the hype seems to be around the star players. The NBA Finals are starting today and all eyes are on the leading trios of the San Antonio Spurs (Ginobili, Parker and Duncan) and Miami Heat (Wade, James and Bosh). But the stars themselves are moving the focus back to statistic - which, unsurprisingly given our passion for data, we love. In a recent interview, Dwayne Wade looked back at the 2013 finals and remembered one detail very clearly: ‘We won the series by a total of five points, you know?’. His teammate and NBA MVP, LeBron James, concurred: ‘If you look at the numbers, the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it's almost even’.

This is only one of the reasons why we took the time to have a look at the data from 40 years of NBA History, 1970-2010, and created a dashboard to have an overview of how how fine those margins are. For example, if you look at our NBA History dashboard, the Spurs have the second-highest win percentage (over 60%, versus nearly 65% for the LA Lakers) but on average did not score as much as other teams. This year, however, Tim Duncan and his Spurs enter the finals with the best league win - loss record - will this be a game as well as a history changer?

Before this special finals series - as a rematch has not happened in the NBA since since 1998, when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls beat Utah for the second straight season - players as well as sport analysts are recalling the missed buzzer-beater for the Spurs from Game 6 that could have brought them the title last season. That was the make-or-break moment - the Heat became a sudden outlier in the NBA data chart; only the fourth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-2 deficit in the Finals to win the championship.

Check our NBA History dashboard to see how teams have made their home courts into fortresses over the years, and why players players attempted and made more 3-pointers than any other time in NBA history.

This season, the data seems to be on the Spurs’ side - for example, both teams had 32-9 home records during the regular season, but it was San Antonio’s dominance on the road (30-11) that powered them to a 62-20 regular season record. However, Miami has gone undefeated in eight home games during the playoffs en route to a 12-3 record during the first three rounds.

It's the sixth finals for the Spurs since 1999 and Miami's fifth in nine years. Everything is close: star players, experience, stats. Which will be the factor that will redesign the history dashboard?

Check our NBA History dashboard out now.