The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will square off on Saturday afternoon in Mexico City in the NBA’s first game south of the border since 2019.
The game will be the league’s 31st contest in Mexico overall, which is more than any country outside the U.S. and Canada.
The Spurs have played six games in Mexico, most recently a 121-119 overtime win over Phoenix as part of the NBA Mexico City Games 2019. It will mark Miami’s second game ever in Mexico, with the other a 101-89 loss against the Brooklyn Nets in December 2017.
San Antonio got in a vigorous workout on Friday to acclimate to the higher elevation of Mexico’s capital city.
“I thought it would be best if I don’t say a word, and hopefully (the players) don’t figure it out,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said about the 7,200 feet of elevation. “I don’t want to scare anybody. I haven’t mentioned it to anybody, not at all.”
San Antonio defeated the Heat 115-111 in Miami on Dec. 10 in the first matchup of the year between the teams.
The Spurs head into the rematch off a 128-112 loss at home to Portland on Wednesday. San Antonio surrendered a season-high 73 points in the first half and never recovered, drawing as close as four points on two occasions in the third quarter before Portland put it away.
The loss snapped a three-game win streak for the Spurs. San Antonio was led by Keldon Johnson’s 25 points while Doug McDermott added 14, Keita Bates-Diop and Devin Vassell scored 13 apiece, Josh Richardson hit for 11 and Tre Jones tallied 10.
The Spurs played without their starting and backup centers, Jakob Poeltl and Zach Collins — who missed the game with knee and ankle injuries, respectively — as well as key backup Romeo Langford (foot). Collins and Langford participated in practice on Friday.
Miami travels south of the border after back-to-back, down-to-the-wire wins on the road at Oklahoma City and Houston on Wednesday and Thursday.
Tyler Herro was the star in both, scoring 35 points with nine 3-pointers in OKC but going one better on Thursday, pouring in a career-high 41 while nailing a team-record-tying 10 shots from behind the arc in a 111-108 victory over the Rockets a night later.
Miami was up by 12 points with five minutes remaining but surrendered a 9-0 Houston run and survived when the Rockets missed a potential tying shot with 4.1 seconds to play.
“I didn’t know it was the record until (Wednesday) night when I hit nine, and they said I was one short,” Herro said. “I didn’t have any intention of coming in to tie the record, but I was just trying to get 3s up. I think shooting more 3s is helping.”
Jimmy Butler added 20 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocks while Caleb Martin scored 13 points as Miami won its third straight game.
The Heat played without starters Kyle Lowry (rest) and Bam Adebayo (left ankle sprain) as well as reserves Dewayne Dedmon (left foot plantar fasciitis), Nikola Jovic (back spasms) and Victor Oladipo (left knee injury management).
The NBA announced on Friday that the Heat were fined $25,000 for “violating league injury reporting rules” ahead of Wednesday’s road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The Heat failed to disclose an accurate game availability status for several players prior to its game,” the league announced in a statement.
–Field Level Media