- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS — Gregg Popovich spent 19 seasons teaching his players how to use teamwork and ball movement to break down defenses.

The philosophy still works.

On a night San Antonio started the fourth quarter in a 14-point hole at Indiana, Popovich’s principles paid off again as Marco Belinelli freed himself with a pump fake and hit an 18-foot baseline jumper to give San Antonio a 95-93 victory that made Popovich the ninth member of the NBA’s 1,000-win club.

“It was looking bleak for a while, but the second group came out there and gave us a lot of energy and the starters came back in and executed pretty well,” the Spurs’ longtime coach said.

Popovich has won plenty of games this way over the years, and Monday night was not much different.

Instead of relying on his big three — Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony ParkerPopovich was content to let the supporting cast do some heavy lifting. They didn’t let him down.

When Kawhi Leonard drove toward the lane, he saw Belinelli in the left corner. The Italian guard barely beat the shot clock, and then the Spurs’ defense challenged George Hill’s 3-pointer from the top of the key, which came up short.

Popovich celebrated in his typical low-key manner. He walked to midcourt, put an arm around Pacers coach Frank Vogel, hugged one of his former players and stoically strolled into the Spurs’ locker room.

Only two coaches, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley, reached 1,000 wins faster than Pop. Only one other coach, Jerry Sloan, achieved the feat with one team. Sloan won 1,127 games with Utah. Popovich is 1,000-462 in 19 seasons, all with San Antonio.

And it came on the most fitting stage of all for an Indiana native. Popovich was born in the northwestern part of the Hoosier State and grew up playing high school basketball in Merrillville, Indiana.

But it was Popovich’s players who wanted the win most, especially after blowing their first chance Sunday night in Toronto.

“We had a great opportunity. We were up three with one minute to go and we were playing,” Parker said after scoring 19 points. “And the same thing, we couldn’t make a shot, but it happens. We made it up today.”

The difference was evident as San Antonio methodically erased a nine-point deficit over the final 5 1/2 minutes by following Popovich’s grand plan.

After deactivating the uninjured Ginobili, he carefully tracked the minutes of Parker and Duncan. Each played 30 minutes, 23 seconds and didn’t enter the fourth quarter until just before the closing run began.

Duncan wound up with 15 points and eight rebounds.

But the Pacers still couldn’t win it.

“We just weren’t solid enough down the stretch and gave them too many extra possessions,” Pacers forward David West said. “We’re disappointed we let this game get away.”

West finished with 10 points and a season-high 18 rebounds. Rodney Stuckey had 19 points as the Pacers’ three-game winning streak ended.

Indiana was ahead 79-65 after three quarters and still led 91-82 with 5:35 to go, but managed just one more basket, a 20-foot pull-up jumper from Stuckey with 2:33 left.

In between, the Spurs relied on sharing the ball. Danny Green’s layup and Leonard’s three-point play got the final rally started. When Duncan put in another layup and Parker made two free throws, the score was tied at 91 with 2:59 left.

After Stuckey’s basket and Aron Baynes’ tip-in with 56.7 seconds tied it again, Belinelli made his shot. Hill did not.

“I’ve been here a long time and I’ve had good players. That’s the formula,” Popovich said. “Getting the players is difficult, but I’ve been fortunate to have good ones.”


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