San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich earned his 1,000th career win after his team beat the Indiana Pacers, 95-93, on Feb. 9.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich won his 1,000th career NBA game with a 95-93 win over the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 9.
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The defending champions Spurs relied on a key baseline jumper from Marco Belinelli with just 2.1 seconds left to play to help Popovich reach the milestone, per ESPN. The Spurs mentor celebrated in low-key fashion by walking over to Pacers head coach Frank Vogel and putting his arm around him. Popovich didn't show much emotion, although he said he will celebrate with a glass of wine.
The milestone occurred in Popovich's home state of Indiana -- he is from the state's northwest area and played high school basketball in Merrillville, Ind. Only two coaches -- Phil Jackson and Pat Riley -- reached 1,000 wins faster than him. Former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan is the only one to ever achieve the feat while staying with just one team. Popovich could very well follow suit. He currently has a 1,000-462 win-loss record with San Antonio, per ESPN.
In terms of win percentage during the regular season, Popovich is fifth all-time (.684). According to ESPN, he is seventh all-time in playoff win percentage (.623).
Popovich told ESPN the key to winning in the NBA is to recruit and develop good players:
"I've been here a long time and I've had good players. That's the formula. Getting the players is difficult, but I've been fortunate to have good ones. The time, that's the most important element. You have to be around for a while I guess."
For their part, the Spurs were determined to give their coach the recognition he richly deserves.
San Antonio rallied from a 14-point, fourth quarter deficit. The Spurs trailed the Pacers, 79-65, entering the game's final 12 minutes. The former trailed by nine with five-and-a-half minutes left before rallying for the historic win.
The ESPN update stresses this is just the third time that Popovich's Spurs won when they trailed by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter. This was the first time the team pulled off the feat since Dec. 2010 when they beat the Minnesota Timberwolves.
As for the Pacers, the loss snapped a three-game winning streak. They also lost for the 14th time in the last 15 games against the Spurs, per Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss. San Antonio upped its record to 33-19 on the season while the Pacers dropped to 20-33.
The Pacers built their second-half lead after scoring 34 points in the third quarter. During that span, Indiana shot 62 percent and went on a 20-6 tear to seize control entering the fourth quarter. The Spurs clawed their way back, eventually knotting the count at 91 apiece on Tony Parker's two free throws with 3:13 left on the game clock, per Hotchkiss.
Rodney Stuckey, who led the Pacers with 18 points, drilled a jumper 40 seconds later to give his team its last lead of the game. Aaron Baynes answered on other end with a put-back after Stuckey committed an offensive foul in transition, per Pacers.com.
With 21 seconds left to play, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard drove to the basket with David West guarding him. Indiana center Roy Hibbert came over to help defend Leonard, who passed the ball to Belinelli on the left baseline. Beilnelli pump faked Stuckey out of the way, and swished the decisive jumper to put the Spurs ahead to stay, per Pacers.com.
According to ESPN, Parker's 19 points led the Spurs. San Antonio forward Tim Duncan followed suit with 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. Popovich deactivated shooting guard Manu Ginobili for the game.
West finished with 10 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists. Hibbert added 10 points for Indiana, per Hotchkiss.
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