Heat hope to ride hot shooting past Spurs

Getty Images, US Presswire

Two early-season MVP candidates, Tim Duncan (left) and LeBron James, face off in a marquee NBA matchup tonight as James' Heat host Duncan's Spurs.

What the NBA schedule lacks in volume Thursday, it more than makes up in quality when the 13-3 San Antonio Spurs visit the 10-3 Miami Heat.

The Heat's stellar offense is a big reason why they are unbeaten in six home games and sport the best record in the East. They average the most points per game and the most points per 100 possessions.

Their effective field goal percentage -- which adjusts for the fact that a 3-pointer is worth one more point than a 2-pointer -- of 58.3 leads the league as well.

Much of their success has stemmed from their 3-point prowess at home, and Ray Allen has played a key role in that aspect of their game.

Only the Oklahoma City Thunder have a higher shooting percentage from the corner than the Heat, and Allen has made 60 percent of his corner threes (9-of-15). Their 43.6 percentage from above the break ranks third in the league.

LeBron James 3-pt FG
This Season

Contributing to that 3-point success is one of the early MVP candidates to be featured in this game, LeBron James. James has been torrid from deep, connecting on almost 44 percent of his attempts, which would be a career high. James’ 3-point connections have come from pretty much everywhere except the left corner.

James has been the most efficient player in the NBA this season. He leads the league in player efficiency rating (28.54), just ahead of the next-closest player, Kevin Durant (28.21).

On the other side of the court, you’ll find perhaps the biggest early-season surprise for MVP, Tim Duncan. The 36-year-old is third in the league with a 27.90 PER, which would be a career high. He's posted a PER of 27 or better just three times previously (2001-02 [his MVP season], 2003-04 and 2004-05).

Tim Duncan Per 36 Minutes
NBA Career

Duncan is averaging nearly 19 points a game, up from the 13- and 15-point scoring averages he posted the past two seasons. After averaging 28 minutes each of the past two seasons, Duncan is near 31 per game in 2012-13.

Why is his increase in minutes a big deal? Because on a per-minute basis, Duncan's production is alarmingly static. Simply put: for Duncan, more minutes is a near-guarantee of more production at the same rate. A look at his career numbers per 36 minutes reveals his consistency.

While Duncan and the Spurs have nine wins in 10 road games this season, American Airlines Arena has not been kind to them since James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in South Beach.

In Miami, San Antonio scores nearly 13 fewer points per 100 possessions and has allowed the Heat to score 23 more points per 100 possessions than any other opponent at that arena.