In a shocking turn of events, the reigning NBA champions—the Miami Heat—and a San Antonio Spurs team without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, gave us one of the most exciting games of the 2012-13 season thus far.
It wasn't pretty at times for the Heat, but they got the job done against a Spurs team that they, in all honesty, should've blown out. The Heat overcame a resilient opponent, 105-100, and they did so on the shoulders of LeBron James.
LeBron absolutely took over in the fourth quarter, leading the Heat on a 16-6 run to end the game. That run was capped off by LeBron finding a wide-open Ray Allen beyond-the-arc with 0:22 left in regulation to give the Heat the lead for good.
The shorthanded Spurs could've just laid over and let the Heat demolish them without their star players, but instead, they gave the Heat all they could handle.
We learned that the Spurs are clearly more than seven or eight players deep. It is clear that the Spurs have one of the deepest teams in the entire NBA.
If it wasn't for LeBron and his 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and his decision to take over the game with four minutes remaining, the Heat would've lost this one.
The Heat certainly have a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Giving up 100 points to a team made up of second-unit players isn't impressive to say the least. But you know what they say about champions—they find ways to win. And that's what the Heat did.
Ahead is a breakdown and grade of every player's performance.
Patrick Mills, PG SAS: D+
Patty Mills protected the ball for San Antonio, but he certainly didn't help them out on the offensive side of the court.
Not only was he 0-of-5 from beyond the arc at the end of the first half, he also failed to get to the free-throw line, which shows the lack of aggressive play on his part.
Mills shot 27.2 percent (3-of-11) from the field on the night, and while his lack of production wasn't the only reason why the Spurs didn't pull of the upset, it was certainly a significant piece of it. His four turnovers also didn't help the Spurs, with a crucial one coming in the waning seconds of the game.
Mario Chalmers, PG MIA: B-
Mario Chalmers didn't necessarily set Miami on fire, but he did what they needed him to do. Protecting the ball is all the Heat ask of Chalmers, and while he shot just 37.5 from the field, his lack of turnovers (just one on the night) helped the Heat immensely.
Defensively speaking, Chalmers play was above average. In the second half, he stepped up his game, putting guys like Gary Neal and Patty Mills on lockdown and playing tough defense that ultimately led to the Heat's 16-6 run to end the game.
It wasn't a great game by Chalmers, but it also wasn't a bad one, and that's good news for the Heat.
Nando De Colo, SG SAS: B
Nando De Colo came into this game with season averages of 1.5 points, 1.1 assists and 0.7 turnovers per game in an average of 8.6 minutes.
The good news for De Colo is that he surpassed all of those averages, ending the game with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. The bad news is that it wasn't enough to get his first win as a starter for the Spurs.
De Colo didn't step up his game until the second half, but when he stepped it up the Heat certainly felt his impact.
Dwyane Wade, SG MIA: B-
I'm sure getting outplayed by Nando De Colo wasn't on Dwyane Wade's mind when this one got under way, but Wade didn't look like himself Thursday night. He was putting up shots early in the shot clock and shot a relatively disappointing 41.1 percent (7-of-17) for the contest.
Luckily, Wade was still aggressive, which resulted in some key baskets in the third quarter while the Spurs were trying to separate themselves from the Heat.
The Heat need to figure out how to get Wade open shots in their offense more so he isn't forced into isolation situations as often as he is. Wade also picked up the defense on Gary Neal in the second half, which was a key to the Heat's seventh straight home victory this season.
LeBron James, SF MIA: A
LeBron James did what he's done all season long—he played with consistency and efficiency on both ends of the floor.
His numbers weren't great, but he certainly was the Heat's leader on and off the court. On the defensive side of the ball, LeBron was forced to guard everyone from Boris Diaw to Gary Neal, and while he wasn't perfect, he certainly showcased his versatility.
LeBron stepped his game up when the Heat were down by seven with under 4:45 left in the fourth quarter. He led the Heat on a 16-6 run to end the game, and when he wasn't scoring in the clutch he was finding wide-open teammates or forcing turnovers on defense to help the Heat get the win.
LeBron's stat line of 23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals really doesn't tell the whole story. He showed that he is truly the king of South Beach, and also solidified himself as the early 2013 NBA MVP favorite.
Matt Bonner, SF SAS: B
Raise your hand if you thought Matt Bonner would have a double-double this season. Yeah, I didn't think so.
For the kind of player Bonner is, he absolutely dominated. He was smart on the glass and he shot the ball with efficiency, shooting 2-of-5 from three.
It's always fun watching Bonner knock down open shots on the perimeter, and that's exactly what he did against the Heat. Ten points and 10 rebounds isn't bad for a 32-year-old role player.
Tiago Splitter, PF SAS: B+
Tiago Splitter was consistent, efficient and aggressive for the Spurs—exactly the kind of player they need him to be.
Splitter was all over the floor on both sides of the ball and shot hit 7-of-12 from the field, with most of those buckets coming on nice cuts to the basket.
While Splitter's 18 points weren't enough to get the Spurs the win, he played his heart out, reminding us all why he is the heart and sole of the (usual) Spurs bench.
Rashard Lewis, PF MIA: D+
How do you shoot 100 percent from the field and get a "D+"?
Well, Rashard Lewis did it by scoring just three points in 21 minutes.
He was perfect from the field, but that's not impressive knowing he shot just one field goal all night. Lewis wasn't aggressive offensively and on defense he was more of a liability than anything else.
I expected more out of Lewis in Shane Battier's absence, but he certainly didn't step up his game the way the Heat needed him to. It's not surprising that while Lewis was a "starter," he actually had less minutes than a number of Heat players on the bench.
Boris Diaw, C SAS: B-
The Spurs got what they needed out of Boris Diaw. He grabbed rebounds, was opportunistic on the offensive side of the ball, and, most importantly, he disrupted the Heat's offensive flow all night in the paint. Ending the night with 12 points and six rebounds is impressive for the big man.
There were times when Diaw seemed to be a few steps behind the Heat on the defensive side of the ball, however, and those moments proved costly for Diaw and the Spurs.
Still, Diaw played as good as he has all year, and if he can carry this success against the Heat all year, San Antontio could be the top seed in the Western Conference come playoff time.
Chris Bosh, C MIA: B+
The Heat would've absolutely fallen apart against the new-look Spurs if Chris Bosh didn't play as well as he did.
Shooting above 50 percent on the night and grabbing a double-double, with 18 points and 12 rebounds, it solidified Bosh as the Heat's No. 2 option against San Antonio.
Sure, he was still a bit soft on defense and he let the Spurs bigs beat him on the offensive glass. But without his production, this could've been an ugly blowout against the Heat, and that would've been terrible considering the talent the Spurs had (or, lacked) on the court.
Bosh is fitting in nicely at the center position for the Heat, and his development there will be key to their continued success throughout the season.
Gary Neal, PG SAS: B-
Gary Neal fueled the Spurs in the first half with 13 points off the bench. That spark was exactly what the Spurs needed and it carried them throughout the game.
Unfortunately, Neal had six turnovers on the night. And those turnovers were ultimately a major reason why the Spurs were unable to separate themselves from Miami as the game went on.
Neal ended the night with 20 points, seven assists and four rebounds, but he shot just 35 percent from the field. His efficiency reallly decreased in the second half, and late in the game he just couldn't get the job done offensively.
Ray Allen, SG MIA: A
Ray Allen should get an "F" simply for the fact that he fouled James Anderson on a 30-foot three-pointer with time expiring in the third quarter.
Fortunately for Allen, he added 20 points off the bench, and he hit the go-ahead three ball with 0:22 left on the clock.
During the first half, Allen seemed like he was a step behind the Spurs' young talent. But in the second half, he stepped it up. He got to the basket and into the paint and finished with a high level of polish a number of times. He only hit one three ball in the contest, but it was the one the Heat needed him to hit.
San Antonio Spurs: A-
Most of the players who usually come off the bench for the Spurs were in the starting lineup. That didn't stop the Spurs' new-look bench from outperforming the reigning NBA champs' bench.
With 38 total points off the bench, it's clear why the Spurs were able to hang with the Heat for so long.
The Spurs attacked the Heat with a well-balanced attack all game, and that included solid production from their second unit—which is something the Heat's bench certainly lacked.
Miami Heat: C-
There's no way around the fact that the Heat bench got outplayed. While the Heat's second unit totaled 34 points on the night, 20 of those points came from the hands of Ray Allen.
The Heat certainly need guys like Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller to pick their game up throughout the season. Both players ended the game with a combined six points in 35 minutes.
While Miami's bench didn't lead to a loss this time, it will down the road. And that's why the bench production must improve if the Heat want to repeat as NBA champions this season.