The defending NBA champion Spurs rallied from 14 points down entering the fourth quarter to collect the milestone triumph for Popovich, the longest-tenured coach in North American professional sports.
“I’ve been here a long time and I’ve had good players. That’s the formula,” Popovich said after the game.
“Time, that’s the most important element. And we’ve been able to get the players. It’s a tribute to them more than it is the coaches.”
A night after missing the chance to bring Popovich the historic win at Toronto, the Spurs made it happen at the finish by outscoring the Indiana Pacers 30-14 in the final 12 minutes.
Kawhi Leonard drove inside and flipped the ball to Italian reserve forward Belinelli, who evaded a leaping defender with a shot fake, stepped inside the 3-point arc on the left side and sank the go-ahead hoop.
Indiana’s George Hill, a former Spur traded to the Pacers in exchange for Leonard, missed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer and “Pop” had his 1,000th victory.
“It was a great game,” Popovich said. “It was a playoff sort of game. Anybody could have won. We were fortunate we made a shot.”
Popovich, who has coached the Spurs to five NBA championships in 19 seasons with the club, became the ninth coach to win 1,000 NBA games and joined former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan as the only men with that many wins for only a single franchise.
Popovich needed 1,462 games to reach the milestone, the third-fewest of those to win 1,000, trailing only Phil Jackson (1,423) and Pat Riley (1,434).
Popovich’s total is the most of any active coach and his win percentage is the second-best of any 1,000-win coach.
Popovich said he felt no different than after any of his first 999 victories and added with his trademark deadpan demeanor, “I don’t do too much celebrating.”
French guard Tony Parker scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Spurs, who also had 15 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots from Tim Duncan, 12 points from Belinelli, 10 from Leonard and 12 rebounds by Danny Green.
Rodney Stuckey led the Pacers with 18 points while David West grabbed 18 rebounds for Indiana. – Agence France-Presse