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.

Golden State coach Mark Jackson was stewing in the third quarter when Denver embarrassed his team’s lack of effort. On one, Kosta Koufos beat back four Warriors downcourt and no one picked him up at the free throw line. Once he drifted past everyone Ty Lawson (17 points, nine assists) dropped an easy dime to him. Fool me once, right? The next trip down, sandwiched around a Klay Thompson jumper, Lawson hit a three-pointer to put the Nugs up 13. Kenneth Faried (10 points, seven boards, five blocks) blew up a Thompson jumper at the other end followed by Koufos doing a nice give-and-go with Lawson for another three-pointer on the next trip. The crime was that no one went out to even try to close out on Lawson. Jackson looked like he was about to make heads roll in the ensuing timeout. After that point, Golden State balled to an improbable 106-105 win. With the Nugs giving the game away like days old Thanksgiving leftovers, Denver almost had a chance to win when Andre Iguodala (22 points) got fouled on a “three” — then had two more chances to win. Down one with two seconds, Denver went with the, uh, original backdoor lob to Lawson. Given the ball back with 0.5 of a second, Iggy drilled a triple to win — except it took about 0.1 seconds too long to be ruled a winner. So close. … Really impressed by not only Faried’s chase blocks — he trashed Steph Curry and Thompson after making up about 20 feet each time in the open court — but Curry’s own active hands. When he poked out the ball from Andre Miller on a post move and then did the same to Faried in a mismatch a few possessions later in the fourth, the buckets they created on the other end got Golden State to within one. … We wrote today about the most-missed players in the NBA because of injuries, and Andrew Bogut was included for Golden State. It was noted that David Lee (31 points, nine boards, six assists) has been balling in his stead at center and that was true Thursday. He left a defender looking at air on a beautiful spin and shot off the glass, hit a tough and-one to tie the game at 102 and was finishing off of breaks because of hustle. … Comings and goings: Rajon Rondo got his 37-game double-digit assist streak broken Wednesday night when he was ejected for his role in a skirmish with Brooklyn. The early ejection from the fight that ended that streak (nine short of tying Magic Johnson) now will cost him two games. That’s the same amount DeMarcus Cousins got for talking garbage to Spurs’ TV guy Sean Elliott. … Also, here’s a welcome back to Derek Fisher, who was picked up by Dallas. … We’re out like half the Spurs roster.

For breaking news, rumors, exclusive content, and contests sent right to your inbox, sign up here for the Dime Email Newsletter.

Follow Dime Magazine on Twitter

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook