The Miami Heat heard San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan loud and clear.
"They don't like us. They don't," LeBron James told news reporters Monday in Miami. "I can sense it from Timmy's comments the last couple of days. ... They want us, so they got us."
Winning a championship is motivation enough, but players often look for an extra edge.
The Spurs are bent on revenge after losing to the Heat in last year's NBA Finals. The Heat have an eye on history, trying to become the fourth NBA franchise to win three consecutive titles, along with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.
"You get to the Finals, you use everything as motivation," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
Miami now has a Duncan quote for its bulletin board. In an on-court TNT interview after the Spurs clinched their second consecutive Western Conference title, Duncan said, "We've got four more to win. We'll do it this time."
The Spurs' four-time champion power forward later added, "We're happy it's the Heat again. We've got that bad taste in our mouths still."
The Heat know the Spurs badly wanted another shot at them, and it's here. Game 1 is Thursday (9p.m. ET, ABC).
"This one, I'm sure everybody is happy for," Heat center Chris Bosh said.
But other than a few select sound bites, the Heat were reserved and businesslike Monday. They spoke for the first time since the Spurs advanced to the Finals to set up a rematch of last season's memorable seven-game series.
"No one is entitled," James said. "This is no one's championship. It isn't ours. It isn't theirs. It's two teams fighting for it."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra downplayed his team's fourth consecutive trip to the Finals and the Heat's chance to win another title. He downplayed Duncan's comments, too.
"I'm sure they're very motivated coming off last year's series," he said. "None of that really matters. All that is decided between the lines, and once you get out there in a series both teams are playing with incredible urgency and desperation."
Spoelstra has worked hard to convince his players that anything other than the next game is frivolous. Spoelstra was more interested in talking about what's required on the court than story lines he can't control.
"Two teams that play fairly similarly in terms of what kind of actions create ball movement, the spacing, the three-point shooting and the attackers who can get in the paint," he said.
James and Bosh said they planned on watching a lot of video of the Spurs, who had success guarding them in last year's Finals. James shot 44.7% in the series after shooting 56.5% last regular season, while Bosh averaged 11.9 points a game and was scoreless in the Game 7 win.
James wasn't interested in any promises about the outcome.
"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "If we play our game, we give ourselves a great chance to win. Win, lose or draw, we'll be all right with it."
More than anything, the two-time defending Finals MVP sounded ready for Game 1.
"Both teams have motivating factors," James said. "They have motivating factors. We have our own. May the best team win."
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