Miami Heat 105, San Antonio Spurs 100: When serious sanctions lead to exciting entertainment
Where the heck do we start with this one? Gregg Popovich decided five straight road games was enough for a few of his players and sent Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green back to San Antonio. NBA Commissioner David Stern, apparently, didn’t appreciate that. What resulted was one of the more exciting NBA games we’ve seen this season, as the Spurs fell late to the Miami Heat 105-100.
The Spurs had no business being in this game. In addition the the four previously-mentioned players sitting out, the Spurs were still without injured forwards Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. The Heat, on the other hand, were only missing Shane Battier. What we got was an exciting game that looked like it might have gone the Spurs way when Gary Neal, who led the Spurs with 20 points on 7-20 shooting on the night, knocked down a 3-pointer to put San Antonio up five with 2:14 left.
Then we got a strong reminder of why stars are so important in the NBA. On the ensuing possession, LeBron James drove and scored. Two plays later, Dwyane Wade hit a layup to cut the lead to one point. After Neal missed a 3-pointer, LeBron drove on Tiago Splitter, who had switched onto James after a pick-and-roll, and found Ray Allen for a go-ahead 3-pointer after momentarily losing the ball. James drove into Splitter and lost the ball, and it looked like Splitter was in position to take the charge if he would’ve fell over, but LeBron gathered the ball and made the smart play. The Spurs were unlucky on the play, but perhaps lucky to be in the game in the first place.
There were plenty of similarities between this game and the early season game last year in Dallas when the Spurs starters played so bad that Gregg Popovich pulled the plug early and went to the bench. When the San Antonio reserves got the Spurs back into the game, Pop never went back to his starters and instead let the players who got them back in the game see it through.
That game was under different circumstances, for sure (Tim Duncan and Tony Parker actually started that game), but it could’ve had a similar effect. Many point to that near-miss in Dallas, the Spurs eventually ran out of gas in overtime, as the point when the Spurs’ bench gained confidence and San Antonio suddenly became an incredibly deep team. That game also ushered the rise of Danny Green, who not even a calendar year later has the honor of being one of the important players held out of a game.
There’s a ways to go in this season, much longer than there was at that time in Dallas last season, but Thursday night’s loss in Miami could’ve been an important moment for the Spurs’ season when we look back months from now. And for one of the Spurs’ lesser-known players, it could signal the rise to ascension that gives him a well-earned night off next season.
- Despite the close score, this game was not an accurate reflection of a game between these two teams. Fun? Yes. Competitive? Yes. But we can only guess how much the Heat let off the gas mentally when they found out who wouldn’t be playing in this game. Likewise, the Spurs who did appear were likely amped for their time to shine on national television. Who knows? We could’ve had the exact same score had Duncan, Parker, Manu and Green been in Miami, but seen a completely different game.
- Attaboy goes to Boris Diaw for his surprising defense on LeBron James in this game. LeBron made the big plays late in the game, but for the majority of it, Bobo did a respectable job defending against the best player in the world, despite Diaw’s, ahem, obvious disadvantages.
- Matt Bonner had a double-double. He’s on the come-up this season, y’all. Actually, what is interesting (not that Matty getting a double-double isn’t interesting) is that the Spurs outrebounded the Heat by eight boards and only gave up seven offensive rebounds without their best rebounder. Or, who we thought their best rebounder was.
- Depending on who you follow on Twitter (if you’re on Twitter) you were either hearing Nando De Colo is a good NBA player, or a very bad one. Not too many people said, “Eh, he’s okay.” De Colo made his first start in the NBA and finished with a career-high 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. He did have five turnovers, though, and got dribbled himself into a lot of bad spots offensively. So, eh, he was okay.
- I like the confident James Anderson. Where was that last season?