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Heat barely beat undermanned Spurs, but controversy will linger beyond this game

Nov 29, 2012, 11:23 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich AP

The Heat did what they’ve been doing all season long on Thursday, which was play down to the level of their competition for the majority of the night, before ending up with a win after all is said and done.

Yes, Miami took care of the Spurs 105-100, but it wasn’t the same Spurs team that got out to a 13-3 record to start the season. That team featured Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili all playing a heavy role in the outcome of San Antonio’s first 16 games of the year, but they weren’t even in the arena for this one, after being sent home by head coach Gregg Popovich to rest well before things even got started.

But between the Heat coasting and the Spurs reserves playing hard and with purpose, San Antonio was in the game all night long, and even held a seven-point lead with under five minutes to play after what seemed like a back-breaking three from Nando De Colo that was launched from a few feet beyond the top of the three-point arc.

Down the stretch, Miami’s offense ran through LeBron James, and the Heat were able to take the lead they would never relinquish thanks to a Ray Alen three-pointer — one that was assisted, of course, by James.

San Antonio got big performances from Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter, and had five players in double figures which kept the Heat guessing defensively. Despite the fact that the usual starters weren’t there, the Spurs that did play did so with a familiarity and team cohesion that is truly a credit to Popovich and his coaching style.

As for the Heat, this effort was par for the course. They similarly struggled with a far less talented Cleveland Cavaliers squad at home less than a week ago, only to rally in the game’s final two minutes to come away with the win. And, they needed overtime to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks at home just a few days before that.

With that being said, and despite the game’s competitive nature and the fact that it wasn’t decided until the final few possessions, Popovich’s decision was wrong, and David Stern said as much in a statement released shortly before tip-off.

That will be the lingering memory from this game — not the gutty effort of the Spurs reserves, and not the fact that the defending champs coasted to another home victory over a team less talented.

Popovich resting his star players will be the catalyst of conversation for days to come, and as Stern warned in his statement, so will whatever punishment he has in mind for the Spurs organization breaking a rule that, up until this point, has never formally existed.

  1. davidcl77 - Nov 30, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Made for a sorry game. I guarantee you he would not rest them had the game been in San Antonio. They may as well win all the regular season games they can, cause come playoff time, the same thing will happen as did last year.

    • rtfinch - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:34 AM

      Did you watch the game? And you’re right, if it was at home they probably would’ve played, because they wouldn’t have been at the end of a 10 day road trip playing 4 games in 5 days.

  2. themagicfanguy - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    There is no controversy, its just the media digging for a story. I didn’t hear any of this when LBJ and Wade got rested last season…
    Stern is a wannabe tyrant. The end.

    • tigerpork - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      James and Wade rested for health reasons. The starting five for the Spurs were all healthy and they repeatedly do this.

  3. themagicfanguy - Nov 30, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Plus, Stern has NO right to sanction a team for NOT breaking any rules. There is nothing that says he has authority over a team’s starting roster. It’s Pop’s choice. If Stern sanctions them, the Spurs should take him to court.

  4. klink6224 - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    I love how there has been much talk saying why didn’t Pop do the resting vs Orlando instead of this game when the smart play is resting vs the Heat. Not gonna go back and look at minutes played vs Orlando but if they destroyed them like they could/should they’d rest most of that game too.

    But the biggest coup to it is Miami is likely a Finals matchup which the Spurs have to at least think is possible they make it that far. Sure it’s November but if you limit the looks of the stars the Heat players can’t “know” tendencies based off earlier season matchups. So in effect you are resting for immediate health reasons. Still getting intel on their main players (and their “scrubs” played them well) all the while limiting their intel on you later. Is it far fetched? Perhaps but has more long term advantages then resting vs Orlando

    • apmn - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      I was thinking the same thing. Pop’s a military guy. Put your strength against your opponent’s weakness if you can, don’t waste it against his strength unless you have to.

  5. tigerpork - Nov 30, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    everyone thinks this is not big deal..clearly I think it is. If teams see that this is OK by us fans then every team in the NBA will resting their players too.

    It would suck to pay big bucks for good seats to see the Thunder starting five come to town and only to find out they are not playing! These players get paid millions of dollars to do their job and entertain us not take the day off.

    This is like buying tickets to see Jay Z and only to find out 50cent is rapping instead.

    • rtfinch - Nov 30, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      So then pay big bucks to watch YOUR team play, who cares who they’re playing? And those players get paid millions of dollars to compete at a high level week in and week out. A lot of good that does laying on a training table with a pulled hamstring.

    • savvybynature - Nov 30, 2012 at 2:02 PM

      Not every team will do it because not every team has older superstars. It makes sense for the Tim Duncans and Manu Ginobilis of the league, but not the Kevin Durants and Lebron James’.

      So your statement is an exaggeration. At worst you may see guys like KG and Kobe take an occasional night off, IF their team has earned the right by putting them in position to make the playoffs regardless.

      I actually have no problem with that as I’d rather see those guys play in the playoffs than in November.

  6. themagicfanguy - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    @tigerpork Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli sat for health reasons too. They’re old, and in Ginobli’s case injury prone. Preventative health reasons are no less important.

  7. vincejr79 - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    This goes both ways. Yes Pop has a right to rest his players to keep them fresh for the end of the season. BUT, this is a business and he needs to be smart enough to pick and choose which games. This was a national televised game which brings in a lot of money from sponsors. If I were someone who bought a spot to advertise for this game, and it was stated ahead of time that the spurs were going to rest their star players that spot would cost me a lot less. Advertising, and broadcasting is the bread and butter of the NBA. This is not just about stern being stern, this is about the health of the league. So no matter what it effects the whole NBA.

    • manchestermiracle - Nov 30, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      You’re putting an awful lot of responsibility on Popovich’s shoulders to clean up a situation that was entirely the NBA’s own fault. When you schedule a nationally-televised game and want all players on both teams to participate maybe you shouldn’t hamstring one of them by forcing them to do double back-to-backs.while the other sits around resting for a week.

      And “the health of the league” cannot override the health of the players or you end up with a broken league.

  8. miamatt - Nov 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    As a Heat fan, this game was tough to watch.

    As far as Popovich goes, it’s his team to do with as he pleases. Miami had not played since Saturday. The Spurs were on the 2nd night of a back to back and playing their 4th road game in 5 nights. The road trip was already a success.

    As a fan it stunk- believe me I was upset when I heard the news, I wanted to see some great basketball. But I don’t see how Popovich can be fined or suspended. If that becomes the case, guys will be sitting out with “general soreness” or “knee”. At least he is honest and consistent with regards to his intentions.

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