MIAMI — The NBA plans to make San Antonio pay for resting four starters.
The Miami Heat almost could not.
Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left gave Miami the lead, LeBron James finished with 23 points and the Heat rallied late to beat the Spurs 105-100 on Thursday night — digging deep despite San Antonio's decision to have four top players resting at home in a move that bothered NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The Spurs played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, all sent back to San Antonio by coach Gregg Popovich, who said the move was in his team's best interest. Stern disagreed, calling the decision "unacceptable," apologizing to fans and saying that sanctions against the Spurs will be forthcoming.
After the game, Popovich said he was unaware of Stern's statement and declined comment about what it might mean.
"Oh, it would have been great if we won," Spurs forward Matt Bonner said after hearing about Stern's statement. "It goes back to what I was saying, I'm sure everybody else was saying before the game. We have faith in everybody on our roster. We think we have one of the deepest teams in the league."
The Heat weren't disagreeing afterward.
"We survived," Chris Bosh said. "And we won. They have a bunch of talented guys over there. I know that nobody's going to really give them credit, but they are a tough bunch."
How tough? Try this — the Spurs led by seven with 4:48 left, and the margin was still 98-93 when Gary Neal made a 3-pointer with 2:14 remaining.
From there, Miami closed on a 12-2 run.
But all anyone will likely remember from this one is Popovich's decision — and whatever Stern does as a result.
"I apologize to all NBA fans," Stern said. "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
Allen scored 20 points, Dwyane Wade added 19 and Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, now 7-0 at home.
Neal had 20 points for the Spurs. Tiago Splitter scored 18 points, Nando De Colo added 15, Boris Diaw scored 12 and Bonner had 10 for San Antonio, which finished a six-games-in-nine-nights road trip with a 5-1 record. Bonner also had 10 rebounds, one more than he had grabbed all season entering the game.
"Pop is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs," Neal said. "He did what's best for us."
Stern's statement was released roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for the nationally televised game.
The Spurs' five starters came into the game averaging a combined 23.6 points, or 1.6 points less than James averaged entering Thursday night.
Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team.
"Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing," Popovich said before the game. "In our case, this month we've had 11 away games, after tonight. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history."
It's not unlike other moves Popovich has made before; in fact, not only did he give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili time off together toward the end of last season, which was condensed by a lockout, he actually flew home to San Antonio with them and took a two-game, pre-playoff sabbatical.
Popovich said he's gotten letters in the past from fans upset about similar moves, adding that he understands their point and asking that they understand his: He thinks rest is necessary for a roster like San Antonio's. And this decision, Popovich said, wasn't about the fact that the Spurs were facing Miami — it was more about a home matchup with surging Memphis on Saturday.
Warriors 106, Nuggets 105
At Oakland, Calif., Andre Iguodala's 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded was waved off, and Golden State held on for a wild win after four replay reviews over the final 3.4 seconds.
Iguodala received a cross-court inbounds pass and connected from the left wing with a hand in his face, and Denver players celebrated by running off the court toward their locker room. But the Warriors stayed put and waited on yet another review by officials at the scorer's table — then began their own cheers at raucous Oracle Arena when officials ruled the shot came just an instant after time expired.
Iguodala missed the last of three free throws that would have tied the game with 3.4 seconds to go, but Denver still had two more chances to win.
Officials first went to the replay table to review whether Jarrett Jack had fouled Iguodala in the act of shooting to give him three tries when trailing by three. After he clunked the third attempt off the back of the rim, Golden State's Draymond Green knocked the ball out of bounds to give the Nuggets another possession with 2.1 seconds left — and that play also went to review.
Andre Miller's pass was deflected out of bounds, and officials went to the replay again before ruling the ball went off a Golden State player. Iguodala swished a 3 that would have won the game, but it came too late.