Shortly before tipoff between the two best teams in each conference, the Miami Heat's official Twitter account announced that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers would miss the game with minor injuries. For the second time this season, a potentially exciting matchup between the Heat and Spurs lost most of its intrigue. But Miami didn't fold against one of the best-run teams in the NBA (in fairness, Manu Ginobili also missed this game). Instead, the Heat players put together arguably their best win of the season.
With San Antonio maintaining a one-point lead and possession of the ball with 32 seconds left, the Spurs delivered the ball to the always-reliable Tim Duncan coming off a screen. Udonis Haslem wisely switched onto him, giving Duncan very little airspace to get off a jumper that caromed off the rim. Although he had two timeouts left, Erik Spoelstra implored his team to bring the ball up-court and set up a play quickly. With San Antonio looking a little discombobulated on defense, Ray Allen found a wide-open Chris Bosh for a 3. Bosh nailed the clutch 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left. Tony Parker subsequent prayer wasn't answered, and the Heat rightfully celebrated a hard-fought win.
Thanks to this win, Miami now has a de facto four-game lead over the Spurs for the best record in the NBA -- the Heat secured the tiebreaker with a sweep of the season series against the Spurs. Spoelstra can therefore continue to rest players for the rest of the season.
It would seem odd that a Heat team without James, Wade and Chalmers could compete with the Spurs, one of the best top-to-bottom franchises in the NBA. But the Heat executed great ball movement from the start, finding open shooters and jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Of course, Miami needed a good portion of its jumpers to fall without penetrators like James and Wade to get into the paint. The Heat shot a respectable 47 percent from the field and made 12 3s, including four triples during an important third quarter that gave Miami a seven-point lead heading into the final stanza of play.
Miami also played a great defensive game, an even bigger accomplishment considering Wade, James and Chalmers -- all of whom have quick hands -- sat out. In addition to Haslem's smart move to switch onto Duncan, Shane Battier made a huge defensive play. Danny Green led a fast-break against Miami with his team up one with 2:41 left. Battier made the shrewd move he made against Jeff Green against the Celtics earlier this month, blocking a vastly more athletic player and saving Miami from falling behind even further. As a team, Miami blocked eight shots -- Rashard Lewis had four of them -- with mostly good communication from help defenders throughout the night. Going up against arguably the best coach in the NBA, Spoelstra proved yet again why he is a very good coach.
Bosh finished with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and nine rebounds. Ray Allen added 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and five assists. Miami's two products from Florida -- Haslem and Mike Miller -- deserve some credit too. Miller made four 3-pointers and dished out five assists while Haslem finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Miami needed Haslem to have his jumper tonight, and he had it.
The Heat will host the New York Knicks Tuesday night at 8.