LeBron James Stops A Starless Spurs Upset In Its Tracks; Golden State Survives A Mind-Boggling Finish
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green weren’t in Miami for Thursday’s nationally televised game. After 36 minutes of the big, bad Heat playing neck-and-neck with the Spurs’ second unit, the Heat’s biggest star showed up in a big way to stop the messing around. LeBron James wasn’t a miracle worker all night — ESPN reported San Antonio’s motley crew outscored Miami by one in LeBron’s 39 minutes of PT — but in the final eight minutes he was like a conductor. He finished with 23 points, nine boards, seven assists and four steals and made the Spurs dearly regret allowing Tiago Splitter to switch onto him instead of Boris Diaw, who’d been guarding LBJ all night (and doing a decent job, too). LeBron’s takeover was deja vue to Saturday’s win over Cleveland when the Heat rallied from seven down to beat the Cavs in the final two minutes. This time the Spurs were up seven with five minutes to play off of Nando de Colo‘s triple. By the time the Heat went up 100-98 with 22 seconds left on Jesus‘ three, LeBron had either scored or assisted on all but four points in that stretch. That was Ray Allen’s only three of the night, but just like his game-winner to beat the Cavs, he nailed it. … David Stern did not appreciate Gregg Popovich‘s move to send back his best players riding commercial airfare. Not that he hasn’t done this before, but because he did it on a night of national broadcasts. “Substantial sanctions” have been promised. Will the ratings of this game compared with other Thursday night broadcasts show that viewers tuned out knowing the Spurs weren’t playing with all chambers loaded? Even if the viewership did bear out a drop, is this Stern’s place at all to be essentially second-guessing coaches with their rosters? Stern wants the best product possible for his viewers every night. Popovich knows that’s not possible, and pulls these moves to make sure his team has the best product possible come playoffs. The Spurs were playing their 12th road game of November and were at the end of a 10-day trip away from San Antonio. From Stern’s POV, even if he agrees with Pop’s strategy he can’t necessarily condone it because every team will try this. He can’t have fans guessing if the money they paid to watch a game means seeing a starting lineup of Splitter, de Colo, Patty Mills, etc. … Pop isn’t the only one who’s said the regular season is too long to benefit players’ performances. Before the season George Karl said a season of 62 games starting Dec. 1 would be better. He also prefaced the whole thing by saying, “I’m sure Commissioner Stern won’t like this…” … … The Raptors signed Mickael Pietrus on Thursday, and will waive Dominic McGuire to open a spot. This will be Pietrus’ fifth team in ten years. Toronto receives a player who shoots nearly 3/4 of his shots from three-point range. … Speaking of long-awaited pickups, Renaldo Balkman has put his name in consideration for the rookie draft of Puerto Rico’s BSN league. Knicks fans can stop booing now. … Hit the jump to hear about an insane finish by the Bay.