The Miami Heat pounced late to beat the San Antonio Spurs 111-101 on Saturday in Mexico City, where commissioner Adam Silver discussed the prospect of NBA expansion south of the border.
A sellout crowd of over 20,000 turned out at Mexico City Arena, where the Spurs seized the initiative with a 19-0 first-quarter run.
The young Spurs team led by three at halftime and were up by four going into the final period, but Miami’s experience and tough defense paid off in a 31-17 fourth quarter advantage that delivered the victory.
Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds, Bam Adebayo added 22 points and 13 rebounds and Tyler Herro added 21 points for Miami, who won their fourth straight and improved to 16-15.
Keldon Johnson led the Spurs with 22 points, Devin Vassell added 18 and the Spurs were buoyed by the return of big man Jakob Poeltl, who missed several weeks with a right knee injury.
Before the game Silver spoke to reporters and reiterated his belief that it’s the NBA’s “manifest destiny to continue to grow” outside the United States.
“When you look at the success we’ve had in Canada to the north, beginning in the early ’90s, it makes sense to me that we would expand to the south, as well,” Silver said. “I don’t have a specific timeline right now in terms of expansion, but there’s no doubt we will be looking seriously at Mexico City over time.”
In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard shook off a slow start to score a season-high 31 points and lead the Clippers to a 102-93 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Leonard missed all four of his shots in the first quarter, but found his groove to carry the Clippers who were without injured Paul George, Ivica Zubac, Reggie Jackson and Norman Powell.
The slumping Wizards led by as many as 15 in the first half and were up by three going into the fourth quarter.
But the Clippers out-scored them 30-18 in the final period to hand them a ninth straight defeat.
“Early in the first quarter I felt like I got to a lot of my shots that I usually make,” Leonard said. “I just kept being aggressive. My teammates kept giving me the ball, they trusted me to shoot.”
Kristaps Porzingis led Washington with 19 points, knotting the score at 87-87 with 5:33 remaining.
Nicolas Batum put the Clippers back up with a three-pointer and Leonard scored eight straight Clippers points as Los Angeles pushed their lead to nine and held on.