Gregg Popovich tied Don Nelson’s NBA record with his 1,335th career victory as a coach in the San Antonio Spurs’ 117-110 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
Popovich, in his 26th season, will try to pass Nelson when San Antonio hosts the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
The Spurs had lost four straight with Popovich on the precipice of matching the record, and they were in danger of extendign that skid with a late collapse against the struggling Lakers, who were without star LeBron James due to a sore left knee.
Dejounte Murray had 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson each had 18 points. Richardson was making his first start with San Antonio.
Talen Horton-Taylor had 18 points to lead Los Angeles and Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony added 17 points each.
Popovich has five NBA titles and is a lock for enshrinement in the NBA Hall of Fame after a career in which he’s coached Spurs greats including David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Robinson sat courtside Monday, and Popovich jokingly told him to check into the game during a time.
These aren’t the same Spurs from Robinson’s prime. San Antonio is 25-40, already assured of a third straight losing season after 22 consecutive finishes over .500. Monday’s game nearly got away, too.
The Lakers pulled within 108-105 on Horton-Taylor’s jumper with 5:40 left, and the Spurs were scoreless for nearly four minutes before Poeltl’s free throw with 37.4 seconds left. Los Angeles never got closer than three, though.
The Lakers were without James and Anthony Davis. James was a late scratch Monday after scoring a season-high 56 points Saturday in a victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Los Angeles had lost four straight and seven of eight prior to James’ highest point total with the Lakers, which matched the third highest of his career.
The Lakers remained in the game by cutting to the rim without the ball for open layups, drives to the basket and the Spurs’ poor free-throw shooting. San Antonio was 16 for 30 on free throws, including 6 for 14 in the third quarter.