From Comcast SportsNetMIAMI (AP) -- The NBA plans to make San Antonio pay for resting four starters.The Miami Heat almost could not.Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left gave Miami the lead, LeBron James finished with 23 points and the Heat rallied late to beat the Spurs 105-100 on Thursday night -- digging deep despite San Antonio's decision to have four top players resting at home in a move that bothered NBA Commissioner David Stern.The Spurs played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, all sent back to San Antonio by coach Gregg Popovich, who said the move was in his team's best interest. Stern disagreed, calling the decision "unacceptable," apologizing to fans and saying that sanctions against the Spurs will be forthcoming.After the game, Popovich said he was unaware of Stern's statement and declined comment about what it might mean."Oh, it would have been great if we won," Spurs forward Matt Bonner said after hearing about Stern's statement. "It goes back to what I was saying, I'm sure everybody else was saying before the game. We have faith in everybody on our roster. We think we have one of the deepest teams in the league."The Heat weren't disagreeing afterward."We survived," Chris Bosh said. "And we won. They have a bunch of talented guys over there. I know that nobody's going to really give them credit, but they are a tough bunch."How tough? Try this -- the Spurs led by seven with 4:48 left, and the margin was still 98-93 when Gary Neal made a 3-pointer with 2:14 remaining.From there, Miami closed on a 12-2 run.But all anyone will likely remember from this one is Popovich's decision -- and whatever Stern does as a result."I apologize to all NBA fans," Stern said. "This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."Allen scored 20 points, Dwyane Wade added 19 and Chris Bosh finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, now 7-0 at home.Neal had 20 points for the Spurs. Tiago Splitter scored 18 points, Nando De Colo added 15, Boris Diaw scored 12 and Bonner had 10 for San Antonio, which finished a six-games-in-nine-nights road trip with a 5-1 record. Bonner also had 10 rebounds, one more than he had grabbed all season entering the game."Pop is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs," Neal said. "He did what's best for us."Stern's statement was released roughly the same time as tip-off in Miami for the nationally televised game.The Spurs' five starters came into the game averaging a combined 23.6 points, or 1.6 points less than James averaged entering Thursday night.And when the Heat ran out to a 16-6 lead, it seemed as though a blowout was in the offing. After all, even the oddsmakers in Las Vegas expected it to be that way -- the Heat were favored by six points in most sports books before the news broke that the Spurs' regulars were resting, after which the line swelled to 13.Apparently, no one told the Spurs that the second-string was supposed to play second-fiddle.San Antonio closed the first quarter on a 21-6 run, taking a 27-22 lead after the period, and simply did not go away. The Spurs led by as many as seven at one point, and after James Anderson made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds left in the third, San Antonio held a 76-73 lead heading into the final 12 minutes.But once again, James-to-Allen proved magical for Miami.With the Heat down by one, James nearly lost the ball in the lane, collected himself and kicked it out to Allen, who connected from the left wing to put Miami ahead to stay. James also set up Allen for a final-moment four-point play to lift Miami over Denver earlier this season, along with another late 3-pointer that helped the Heat edge Cleveland last weekend."Every time a guy turns his head I have to find the open spot so LeBron can see me," Allen said. "Anything can happen out there. We put ourselves in such a tough situation, but we kept plugging away."Thing is, no one ever thought it would come down to that.Before the game, Popovich said he decided to sit his core when he saw how challenging this particular part of the schedule was for his team."Everybody has to make decisions about their schedule, about players playing and back-to-backs and trips and that sort of thing," Popovich said before the game. "In our case, this month we've had 11 away games, after tonight. We've had an eight-day trip and a 10-day trip, and we're ending it with four (games) in five nights here. I think it'd be unwise to be playing our guys in that kind of a situation, given their history."It's not unlike other moves Popovich has made before; in fact, not only did he give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili time off together toward the end of last season, which was condensed by a lockout, he actually flew home to San Antonio with them and took a two-game, pre-playoff sabbatical.Popovich said he's gotten letters in the past from fans upset about similar moves, adding that he understands their point and asking that they understand his: He thinks rest is necessary for a roster like San Antonio's. And this decision, Popovich said, wasn't about the fact that the Spurs were facing Miami -- it was more about a home matchup with surging Memphis on Saturday."Perhaps it'll give us an opportunity to stay on the court with Memphis on Saturday night," Popovich said. "Historically, when you're on a long road trip, that first game when you come home is really tough. And Memphis is one of the best teams in the league. They're of much more concern to us than playing four games in five nights. It's pretty logical."Given Stern's statement, it's also logical to think that the Spurs could know their penalty by Saturday as well.Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Popovich's move didn't affect Miami's preparation."Each organization has a big-picture view of what they are trying to get accomplished and I think the league respects that," Spoelstra said.In this case, maybe not.NOTES:Miami last played on Saturday, at home; San Antonio had played on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, all on the road. ... A moment of silence was held before the game for Sasha McHale, the daughter of Houston coach Kevin McHale. Sasha McHale died Saturday at age 23. ... It was the third straight home game in which Miami trailed in the fourth quarter. ... The back-and-forth game ended a run of blowouts in the Heat-Spurs series. The previous five meetings were decided by an average of 24.8 points, including three 30-point games -- two of those Spurs wins in San Antonio, the other a Heat win in Miami.
0:43 - Tom Curran, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley talk about Bill Belichick saying it’s “incomprehensible” that people expect the Patriots to be on the same level as last year at this point in the season.
11:55 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and Michael Holley discuss J.R. Smith’s comments about the Celtics not being a threat to the Cavaliers.
15:38 - Abby Chin, Chris Mannix, and A. Sherrod Blakely join BST from Cleveland to talk about Marcus Smart and the Celtics failing to agree to a contract extension, making him a restricted free agent in July. They also preview Tuesday’s Celtics-Cavaliers season opener.
19:25 - Reports say Alex Cora is the frontrunner for the Red Sox managerial position, but Brad Ausmus interviewed for the position on Monday. Who is the right man for the job? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss.
BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.
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But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road.
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
And even that might not be enough.
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”