Gregg Popovich became the fastest to reach 1,300 career wins, not that San Antonio’s veteran coach cared about the milestone. Popovich was prouder that the Spurs snapped a four-game losing streak during a difficult point of the season.
Jakob Poeltl scored 20 points, DeMar DeRozan had 17 and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat Chicago 120-104 on Saturday night in Nikola Vucevic’s debut with the Bulls.
“Shoutout to Coach Pop, future Hall of Famer,” San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray said. “I’m just thankful to know him as person, to be coached by him. We are going to try to continue to get him as many wins as we can.”
Popovich is 1,300-634 in the regular season in 25 seasons, all with the Spurs.
The Spurs essentially secured the milestone early, but not without a late fight by the Bulls.
Vucevic had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists in his Chicago debut. The Bulls acquired the All-Star center Thursday in a trade with Orlando. Zach Lavine added 18 points for Chicago, which lost its third straight.
“They did a great job hanging in and never dying,” Popovich said.
So did the Spurs, who were playing their seventh game in nine days and 10th in two weeks.
Coming off two disappointing losses to the Los Angeles Clippers, including a 134-101 blowout Wednesday, San Antonio needed a boost and their veterans provided it.
“We haven’t been great on offense the past couple of games,” Poeltl said. “We’ve been playing slow, so we just wanted to come out and be aggressive. Everybody did their part. We were sharing the ball and I think that’s the best way to play ball and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Spurs finished with 29 assists.
Derrick White and Patty Mills added 16 points each for San Antonio, and Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson had 14 points each.
San Antonio nearly blew a 36-point lead but held on to win for the first time since defeating Cleveland on March 19. The Spurs are 20-3 when holding a double-digit lead at any point in a game.
Poeltl and DeRozan combined to shoot 15 for 23 from the field.
But after scoring 96 points through three quarters, San Antonio floundered in the fourth.
“I think they kind of punched us,” Murray said. “I think we got kind of a little comfortable. They punched us but we kept it under control. We won the game so, at the end of the day, that’s big to get them twice.”
The Bulls outscored the Spurs 25-11 in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter to pull within 107-98 on Vucevic’s second 3-pointer of the game.
“I’m trying to find my teammates and get a feel for everything that we are running,” Vucevic said. “It was pretty good for a first game, and as the game went on, it was better.”
DeRozan and Poeltl combined to score the next seven points to give San Antonio a 114-98 lead with 3:23 remaining.
“We dug ourselves a pretty big hole, but I give the guys credit, they fought their way back in,” Chicago coach Billy Donovan said. “We never could quite get it back to single digits.”
Bulls: Chicago rookie Patrick Williams wore jersey No. 44 after giving up the No. 9 he previously wore to Vucevic. … The Bulls’ entire 15-man roster played at least two minutes.
Spurs: Rookie guard Devin Vassell did not return after spraining his right ankle, exiting the game with 9:11 remaining in the first half. Vassell’s status is unknown. … G Lonnie Walker IV missed his third straight game with a sore right wrist. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Walker will likely be out a week. … San Antonio has led by double digits in 53% of its games this season. … The last time the Spurs held a 30-point lead was Feb. 12 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Bulls: At Golden State on Monday night.
Spurs: Host Sacramento on Monday night.