San Antonio (32-19) threw up 93 shots, making just 31 of them in an ugly 87-82 loss to the Toronto Raptors (35-17). And yet the game was tied at 77-77 with 3 1/2 minutes to play and the Spurs were within one shot of sending it to overtime, down 85-82 with 4.4 seconds remaining.
And that despite the fact the Spurs missed 16 of their last 17 shots in a dreadful 12-point third quarter.
After the game, the irascible Popovich threw a question of his own back when asked whether it was good defence or bad offence during the lean spell.
"How many times do you think that question's been asked over the last 20 years of every team?" he asked. "It's a little bit of defence, it's a little bit about making shots. That's all there is. Those are the only two possibilities.
"So sometimes guys don't make shots and that was a bad stretch for us."
San Antonio's starters went 15-for-56 on the night.
The Spurs earned Popovich his 999th regular-season win on Friday, downing the visiting Miami Heat 98-85. They will shoot for the milestone again Wednesday in Detroit, the second game of a nine-day road swing split up by the all-star break.
Popovich doesn't seem to care much.
Asked before the game if it was a special evening for him, Popovich looked blankly at his questioner.
"What are you talking about," the coach responded.
The 1,000th win, he was told. Popovich made a frustrated noise and turned away — waiting for the next stupid question.
Ask Popovich a question he deems dumb and the answer is usually short and dismissive. But he was eloquent when asked about North Carolina coaching icon Dean Smith, who passed away Saturday.
Popovich came into the game with a 999-461 regular-season record. He is also 149-90 in the playoffs.
The Spurs started slowly Sunday, missing their first four shots and 12 of their first 16.
"Both team were very competitive," Popovich said. "I thought we made a lot of bad decisions in execution that really hurt us. But both teams defended pretty well."
A former assistant coach in San Antonio and Golden State, Popovich returned to the Spurs in May 1994 as the team's GM and executive vice-president of basketball operations.
He took over as head coach in December 1996, firing Bob Hill after a 3-15 start.
Popovich went 17-47 in 1996-97, his first year as the Spurs' helm. He won 50-plus games in 16 of the next 17 seasons and is just 18 away from reaching the plateau again this season.
These days he serves as head of everything in San Antonio, doubling as head coach and president.
Those duties include keeping the media honest.
"You guys are getting paid, right," he said during a lull in post-game questioning before walking away.
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