A decision by Gregg Popovich may have siphoned the pregame intrigue away, but the on-court battle between the Heat and Spurs wound up being a thriller, as Miami pulled off a scintillating comeback to win 105-100 Thursday night.
The hype surrounding this game was marred midday on Thursday when Popovich decided to send home stars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It seemed what was going to be a battle between two of the best Big Threes in the NBA was destined to turn into a blowout.
Nevertheless, the Spurs' lineup full of secondary players never succumbed to the pressure of playing the defending NBA champions. San Antonio battled in each quarter and got role players to step up and become one-night stars.
Leading that charge was Tiago Splitter, who wound up with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Gary Neal, who dropped 20 points and seven assists off the bench.
In the end, though, Miami's firepower proved to be too much. Down five with a little more than two minutes remaining, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen all scored massive buckets to put the Heat ahead and clinch the contest.
While Miami will certainly be happy to come away victorious, you have to wonder whether it took its foot off the pedal once the announcement came down about the Spurs' trio. Regardless, it was an unexpectedly great came that came down to the very last minute.
Player of the Game: SF LeBron James
It certainly won't be a performance that he tells his grandchildren about, but James did what he always does—filled the stat sheet. The game's best player finished with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting, scooped up nine rebounds and added seven assists.
One of those assists was perhaps the most important of the game, as he hit a wide-open Allen for the game's go-ahead bucket.
What's Next for the San Antonio Spurs?
San Antonio will get a day off Friday before heading home for a Saturday night clash against the Memphis Grizzlies.
What's Next for the Miami Heat?
Miami will also get a night of rest and relaxation on Friday before sticking around town to play the Brooklyn Nets.