LeBron who? Dwyane who?
The Miami Heat beat the Spurs 88-86 in their highly anticipated meeting Sunday because forward/center Chris Bosh came up big, finishing with 23 points and hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in another nail-biter at the AT&T Center.
With stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and starting guard Mario Chalmers sidelined with injuries, Bosh picked up the slack and tormented the Spurs with his feathery jumper.
We are the defending champs no matter who we put out there, said Bosh, who played a key role on the Miami team that won last year's NBA title. We are still the Miami Heat. We believe in ourselves.
Each one of these guys is a professional. We played bigger roles in other cities, but we came together and accepted lesser roles to win a championship. We can still tap into that.
James, who had played in all 72 of the Heat's games this season, strained his right hamstring in a win over New Orleans on Friday night.
Wade has been hobbled since spraining his right ankle in last week's loss to Chicago, and Chalmers also has a sprained right ankle and was listed as day-to-day heading into the game against the Spurs. Chalmers was inactive for the game against New Orleans.
The Easter duel between the NBA's conference leaders was billed as a preview of a possible matchup of the Finals.
Miami (58-15) leads the East and San Antonio (55-18) is still No. 1 in the West. The Heat swept the regular-season series against the Spurs 2-0.
After going 2-1 in a grueling three-game homestand, the Spurs get right back to it Monday, playing at Memphis (49-24) in a 7 p.m. game. After hosting Orlando on Wednesday, they visit the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.
OKC (54-20) is No. 2 in the West standings, trailing San Antonio by 1 1/2 games.
Heat kept Parker under wraps
The Spurs won excruciatingly close games in the first two games of their homestand, edging Denver 100-99 last Wednesday night and the Los Angeles Clippers 104-102 on Friday night.
Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs against Miami with 17 points each, but point guard Tony Parker was held to 12.
Double-teamed by the Heat on pick-and-roll plays, Parker hit just 4 of 14 shots but managed to dish out eight assists.
They just trapped me, Parker said. They trapped me every time I did a pick-and-roll or any kind of play. They were trapping me the whole game.
Playing without reserve guard Manu Ginobili, out with a strained right hamstring, the Spurs struggled to score. Although Ginobili was in a shooting slump before he left Friday night's game against the Clippers, he still can hit timely shots and create scoring opportunities for his teammates with his drives to the basket.
Without Manu, Tony is a guy who has to generate things for us and they pretty much took him out with all of the their double teams and hard hedges, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. We didn't generate offense anywhere else except through Timmy. They did a real good job of it.
Popovich said that it may be weeks, not days, before Ginobili suits up again. With only nine games left in their regular season, the Spurs face the challenge of adapting to playing without Ginobili, one of their key playmakers.
The Silver & Black will be in trouble if Ginobili is still sidelined when the playoffs start.
Miami, meanwhile, will be tough to dethrone with James,Wade and Bosh on the floor at the same time. And asthe Heat demonstrated again Sunday night, they havea deep bench.
Bosh former Dallas Lincoln High School standout
Bosh hit the decisive bucket over Duncan, who got caught trying to guard Heat forward Udonis Haslem on a pick-and-roll before he jumped out on Bosh.
Duncan closed on Bosh, but the lefty got a good look at the basket and launched a shot that will be in the Heat's highlight film of the season.
I saw Haslem moving to the basket and I got sucked in a little too far, Duncan said. Chris had time to get his feet set and he shot the ball well early from 3, and made another one. It was a hell of a play on his part, and just a poor choice on mine, I guess.
A former schoolboy star at Dallas Lincoln, Bosh hit 9 of 15 shots, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, and led the Heat under the boards with nine rebounds. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and nine in the final period.
He's a heck of a player, number one, but he's also a hell of a shooter, Popovich said of Bosh. He knocked down a big shot. Timmy contested it and he hit a big shot to win the game. Give him credit.
The big news that spread like wild fire before the game was that James and Wade would miss the game with injuries.
While fans who coughed up big bucks to see the pair were disappointed, they were treated to a back-and-forth game from beginning to end.
The Heat won 27 consecutive games before losingto the Bulls inChicago last Wednesday night.
Spurs fined $250,000 for resting Big Three earlier in season
Miami coach Eric Spoelstra's decision to hold out James and Wade fueled speculation that the Heat were retaliating to a similar move by Popovich when the teams met Nov. 29 in Miami.
Popovich rested the Spurs' Big Three -- Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- and the franchise was fined $250,000 by the NBA.
Spoelstra denied before the game that benching James, Wade and Chalmers had anything to do with retaliation.
Popovich feigned indignation when asked what he thought of Spoelstra's decision to sit out three starters.
What kind of (expletive) is that? Popovich said, drawing laughter from reporters as he took a few steps backward and acted surprised. Are you kidding? What a bunch of rummies.
Who would think of something like that? That's below the belt. There's no place for that.
When asked if he was surprised, Popovich turned serious.
I have too many things to think about to worry about that kind of thing, he said.
Spoelstra said the Heat took a low-key approach to playing against the Spurs without three starters.
We didn't try to overdramatize it or overanalyze it, he said. It was 'Let's play our game.'
After losing to the Heat 105-100 without Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, the Spurs kept it close again Sunday night.
Unfortunately for them, they still had to face Bosh.