A Louisville player horrificly suffered a broken leg,and the Cardinals still spurted away from Duke to reach the Final Four.
The not-so-jolly green giant, Brittney Griner, suffered a regional semifinal loss here in Oklahoma City, setting off a tirade by Baylor coach Kim Mulkey and list-makers to figure out if Louisville’s victory was the biggest upset in women’s hoops history.
But the biggest and best basketball story Sunday occurred down in San Antonio, where the Heat stuck it to the Spurs in every way possible.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra made LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers on the inactive list, ostensibly with minor injuries. But clearly, the Heat countered for the Spurs’ decision to sit Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green for a game in Miami back on Nov. 29. The Spurs dang near won that game anyway, but Miami trumped San Antonio.
With a starting lineup of Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis, the Heat beat the Spurs 88-86, on Bosh’s 3-pointer with one second left. With the victory, look at all Miami accomplished:
1. Retribution for the affront to the Heat fans, who were given an inferior matchup back in November. The Spurs’ fans got cheated Sunday — no LeBron, no Wade, on Miami’s only trip to San Antonio.
2. Total psychological advantage, should the Heat and Spurs meet in the NBA Finals. If the Spurs — which could catch Miami for the best record in the NBA but also could fall below the Thunder for homecourt advantage in the Western Conference — can’t beat the Heat when Miami doesn’t have LeBron or Wade, what chance does San Antonio have against a full Miami roster?
3. Fortification of the Heat’s prowess. Not just an edge on the Spurs. But a belief that this team is really special, that it can win even without its stars. “You could hear the collective groan in the arena, ‘Oh, we’ve got to watch these clowns for 48 minutes?’” Shane Battier said after the game. “”Well, you know what? These clowns have a lot of fight in them.”
And from the Thunder’s perspective, the victory was manna from Heaven. After OKC’s loss to Minnesota on Friday night, catching the Spurs seemed a longshot. The Thunder was 21/2 games behind San Antonio. Then the Thunder won at Milwaukee on Saturday night, the Heat won without its stars on Sunday and now OKC is back to being just 11/2 games behind the Spurs.
San Antonio plays at Memphis on Monday night, then hosts Orlando on Wednesday, so it’s quite possible that the Thunder will remain 11/2 games behind the Spurs when San Antonio gets to town for a Thursday night showdown. With only 9-10 games left, there’s a huge difference between 21/2 and 11/2.