Ray Allen hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left as the Miami Heat came through with a harder-than-expected, 105-100 win over the short-handed San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena.
Allen scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, while LeBron James compiled 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to lead the Heat to their fifth consecutive victory, though Miami needed a 12-2 run over the final two minutes to get past a gritty Spurs squad that was playing without its top five scorers.
Dwyane Wade added 19 points and Chris Bosh amassed 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Heat, who improved to 7-0 at home as well and have now won 11 in a row at American Airlines Arena dating back to last season's playoffs.
"We're not going to make any excuses for tonight," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You deal with a lot of different things during the course of a season. Our guys were looking forward to this game. We played a little lethargic the majority of the game. They came out and played well. They played normal Spurs basketball. We were able to make big plays at the end."
Gary Neal had 20 points and Tiago Splitter finished with 18 for a San Antonio team without its "Big Three" of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, all of whom did not make the trip for rest purposes. The Spurs were playing for the fourth time in five days.
Starting guard Danny Green was also held out for San Antonio, which had taken the first five tests of its six-game road swing.
"We just tried to play well, use our system and just tried to do everything we normally do to win a game," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "This was a tough loss. I couldn't be more proud of the way the guys played. We had a chance to win. I thought we played really well but not quite well enough."
San Antonio competed with the defending NBA champions all throughout the night in spite of the defections, and looked poised to spring the upset after a 3- point basket from seldom-used rookie Nando de Colo put the Spurs up 92-85 with 4:48 left.
Miami would inch closer down the stretch, getting to within 95-93 on four straight made free throws from James and Allen, but Neal buried a clutch triple with 2:14 remaining to extend San Antonio's lead back to five points.
James answered with a spinning runner in the lane and the Heat forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, leading to Wade's transition layup that cut the deficit to 98-97 with 1:05 to go.
After Neal misfired on a contested 3-point try on the other end, James dribbled into the lane and fired the ball back to Allen, with the clutch veteran knocking home a 27-footer to put the Heat ahead.
James made it a 101-98 game after making 1-of-2 free throws following a Neal turnover, and Neal missed the mark on a long jumper that would have evened the score in between two successful foul shots on both ends. Wade then sank a pair from the charity stripe with 3.6 seconds on the clock to seal the outcome.
The game appeared headed towards a blowout early on, with Miami jumping out to a 16-6 lead on the strength of an 11-0 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from James and Rashard Lewis. The Spurs hung tough, however, and outscored the Heat by a 13-2 count over the final three-plus minutes of the first quarter to grab a surprising 27-22 advantage at period's end. Matt Bonner led the charge by knocking down a pair of triples off Neal assists.
San Antonio continued to stay in front entering the last four minutes of the first half, but Miami closed with a 9-2 spurt culminating with a pair of Bosh buckets to go into the break owning a 47-44 edge.
The Spurs wouldn't go away, though, using a strong third quarter to take a 76-73 lead into the final session. San Antonio shot 54.2 percent for the stanza and induced six Miami turnovers that led to six points.
Miami held a slim 83-81 lead with seven minutes left, but an 11-2 flurry in which de Colo netted five points put the Spurs ahead by seven heading into the frantic finish.
De Colo, who came in averaging just 1.5 points per game, ended with a career- high 15 points along with six rebounds and five assists ... Miami played without forward Shane Battier, sidelined with a sprained MCL sustained in the team's win over Cleveland on Saturday ... The Heat's 11-3 start ties a franchise best after 14 games, first set during the 1995-96 season and matched in 1999-00 ... Miami is now 29-2 in its last 31 regular-season home games ... Bosh is averaging 22.3 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last four outings.