Miami outshot and outrebounded San Antonio in the first half, yet led only 52-49. The Heat stayed ahead until Parker's free throws gave San Antonio a 77-76 edge with 7:47 remaining. James set up Bosh for a jumper on the next possession for his 10th assist, but Leonard made a follow shot and Parker turned James' turnover into a spinning layup and an 81-78 lead exactly halfway through the fourth.
The lead grew to seven, but Miami was back within two and appearing ready to get the ball back when Parker lost control of the ball and his balance as the clock was set to expire. He gathered the ball and his footing, turning and tossing it in as the light above the basket turned red.
"Tony's shot is one of those things that happens sometimes," Ginobili said. "We got lucky today."
It was an entertaining start to a matchup that seemed years in the making between perennial contenders, the Spurs making their fifth appearance and the Heat their fourth. Commissioner David Stern called it "probably the most anticipated finals in who knows, 30 years," likely more a bit of hyperbole in his final state of the league address than a comment meant to slight fans of the Celtics, Lakers, or Michael Jordan's Bulls.
It came with the promise of beautiful basketball between two fluid offenses who were built differently but share common beliefs and a healthy respect.
The Spurs value system over stardom, never asking for attention — and too often not getting it.
The Heat have been never been out of the spotlight from the moment James and Bosh showed up to join Wade, James vowing multiple titles as lights flashed and music boomed, showing they were going to be loud and impossible to ignore.
The Heat have a assembled a deep supporting cast loaded with 3-point shooters that turned them into a 66-win powerhouse this season, sending the Spurs to the finals in the unfamiliar role of underdog.
They handled it just fine.
The Spurs hadn't played since May 27, when they finished off a sweep of Memphis in the Western Conference finals, and even coach Gregg Popovich said he didn't know what to expect.
San Antonio turned it over on its first possession, leading to Wade's fast-break dunk. Then the Spurs ran off nine straight points, showing the rest helped more than any rust hurt.
Only Duncan, who has remained among the NBA's best at 37, looked out of sync. He missed all five shots in the first quarter before going to the bench late in the period with his second foul.
The Heat had a 38-29 lead by the time he returned, and he quickly got on the board with an inside basket en route to a 12-point second quarter.
Back in the arena where James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in last year's closeout game, fans arrived to white shirts reading "Witness Miami" draped over their seats.
The Miami fans didn't like what they witnessed, many leaving as referees reviewed Parker's shot.
Notes: Duncan joined Elgin Baylor, A.C. Green and John Salley as the only players in NBA history to make a Finals appearance in three decades. Salley is the only one to win titles in three decades. ... Eleven of the Spurs' 15 players were making their finals debuts. Only Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Matt Bonner were on the 2007 team. ... The Spanish national soccer team was at the game, along with former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, whose No. 13 jersey is retired in the arena.
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney
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