|San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich (2nd R) speaks with his team during a time out against the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. REUTERS/Robert Sullivan
MIAMI - A mixed bag of San Antonio Spur bench warmers almost handed the defending NBA champion Miami Heat their first home loss of the season in a matchup that had been billed as a preview of the NBA finals.
The Heat appeared to be headed for a humiliating loss but they survived the mighty scare to beat the Spurs 105-100 behind a 20-8 closing run and 23 points from LeBron James at AmericanAirlines Arena.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich didn't have his top five scorers for their final game of their six-game road trip. That meant no Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili or Tim Duncan, all of whom stayed home to rest.
The matchup had been highly anticipated as one between two of the NBA's elite teams before Popovich decided to leave his stars at home.
NBA commissioner David Stern was upset with the move and said San Antonio would face "substantial sanctions" for resting so many star players at once.
"I apologize to all NBA fans," Stern said in a statement. "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."
Ray Allen hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 22.6 seconds left as the Heat came through over the short-handed Spurs.
Allen scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, while James finished with nine rebounds and seven assists to lead the Heat to their fifth consecutive win. Miami needed a 12-2 run over the final two minutes.
Dwyane Wade added 19 points and Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who improved to 7-0 at home.
Miami has also won 11 in a row at AmericanAirlines Arena dating back to last year's postseason.
Gary Neal had 20 points and Tiago Splitter finished with 18 for San Antonio.
Starting guard Danny Green was also held out for the Spurs, who had won the first five games of their six-game road swing.
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