SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers all sat out the Miami Heat's game against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night.
James strained his right hamstring in the first half of Friday's 108-89 victory at New Orleans, according to the Heat. He continued to play despite the injury, however, scoring 36 points in 32 minutes prior to sitting out late in the blowout victory.
Wade injured his right ankle in Miami's 101-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, which snapped the Heat's 27-game winning streak. Wade had 17 points and nine assists in 33 minutes Friday against New Orleans.
James and Wade were surprise late scratches while Chalmers did not play Friday in New Orleans and was listed as day-to-day with a sprained right ankle.
Miami (57-15) began the day with a two-game lead over the Spurs (55-17) for the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. A win would essentially provide Miami, which won the teams' other meeting earlier this season, a four-game cushion with nine remaining, given that the Heat also would control any potential head-to-head tiebreaker with San Antonio.
If the Heat lose, the race for home-court advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs could turn into a frantic, down-to-the-wire deal.
None of the three injured players were on the bench for the first half Sunday. Their absence rekindled the controversy surrounding San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich's decision to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home instead of having them play the second game of a back-to-back Nov. 19 in Miami. It was the finale of a six-game road trip, finishing with four games in five days. The Spurs did not give the NBA or Miami prior notice of the players' absences, which led the NBA to fine San Antonio $250,000.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if San Antonio's decision to sit their stars in Miami had an impact on his decision to rest his stars for this game.
"I could see how you guys can draw that conclusion, but no," Spoelstra said before the game.
Unlike Popovich, Spoelstra listed injuries as the reason for his stars' absence, which will likely eliminate the chance of the league fining Miami.
Popovich reacted in mock horror when told James, Wade and Chalmers were out.
"Are you kidding me?," Popovich said in mock astonishment. "Who would think of something like that? That's below the belt. There's no place for that."
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