On Popovich’s training anniversary, Spurs beat Heat 115-111

MIAMI (AP) — Gregg Popovich received the perfect anniversary gift from his San Antonio Spurs.

Keldon Johnson scored 21 points, Romeo Langford added 19 and the San Antonio Spurs celebrated the 26th anniversary of Popovich’s first game as coach by beating the Miami Heat 115-111 on Saturday.

“We won,” Popovich said. “That’s what I liked the most.”

Devin Vassell had 18 points for the Spurs, hitting a jumper with 1:13 to play that put them ahead to stay. Zach Collins scored 16 points and Doug McDermott added 13.

“The future is really bright for this group,” Langford said.

Jimmy Butler scored 30 points for Miami, which got 23 from Tyler Herro, 14 from Caleb Martin and 12 each from Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry.

Victor Oladipo added 11 for Miami before fouling out. The Heat were outrebounded 46-32 and the San Antonio bench outscored the Miami bench 47-20.

The Spurs were up 113-111 and used two timeouts with 14.7 seconds left to try to get the ball in bounds. But Collins was called for his sixth foul on second down in-bounds, and Miami got the ball back with a tie-or-win chance.

The Heat chose to go for the win: Herro missed a 3-pointer, then Martin also missed a 3-pointer from the right, and the Spurs finished on the line to snap an eight-game road streak and earn just their eighth win. in 26 games.

“I didn’t even show our team the record,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That is too dangerous. They play the way you’re used to seeing them play. They really compete.”

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The game was played 26 years to the day of Popovich’s debut. He promoted himself to the job after firing Bob Hill after a 3-15 start, and on December 10, 1996, Popovich and the Spurs went to Phoenix and lost 93-76.

Things would get better.

The Spurs went 17-47 under Popovich that first year, went 20-62 and drafted Tim Duncan with the first pick in 1997. Over the next quarter-century, Popovich became the league’s wins leader. In the NBA, the Spurs have won five championships, most recently against Miami in 2014, and are now in the midst of a rebuild with a promising young core.

“The responsibility is really trying to create a foundation for them so that everyone can have careers, one way or another,” Popovich said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Spurs or someone else. They are all very young guys and they deserve the opportunity to be in an environment where they can learn and have a good foundation to move on from. That’s where the joy is.”


Spurs: Popovich was 19th on the NBA win list when Spoelstra started coaching the Heat in 2008. Spoelstra was tied for 246th on that list when he got his first win; he is now 21… Jakob Poeltl (bruised right knee bone) missed his fifth straight game.

Heat: Miami’s biggest lead Saturday was eight. The Heat haven’t led by more than 11 points in any of their last six games. … Monday’s game in Indiana may be the first time Oladipo has played for the Heat at his old stadium. Oladipo last played there for Indiana on January 9, 2021 and last played there as an opponent on February 6, 2017 for Oklahoma City.

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In a nod to the last Spurs-Heat NBA Finals matchups, Miami brought back Julia Dale to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Dale was a tween when she became the Heat’s good luck charm during the postseason a decade ago, and now she’s a senior at New York University.


The Spurs and Heat end their season series next Saturday in Mexico City. It will be the first of four home games at alternate sites for San Antonio in its 50th anniversary season; the Spurs are playing their last two home dates in Austin (April 6 and 8), and have a game on January 13 with Golden State at the Alamodome, where the hope is to surpass the current NBA record of 62,046.


Spurs: Host Cleveland on Monday night.

Heat: Visit Indiana on Monday night to kick off a four-game trip.


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