Butler, Adebayo lead Heat past Spurs in Mexico City

Miami Heat's Jimmy Butler goes up for a shot against San Antonio Spurs' Keita Bates-Diop, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, at the Mexico Arena in Mexico City, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano) (Fernando Llano, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MEXICO CITY – Maybe it was the grasshoppers or the tequila, perhaps the combination of both, but the altitude of Mexico City did not affect Jimmy Butler.

Butler scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half and the Miami Heat extended their winning streak to four, beating the San Antonio Spurs 111-101 on Saturday in the first NBA game in Mexico City since 2019.

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Sitting at 7,350 feet above sea level, Mexico’s capital is at a far higher elevation than Denver – the NBA’s highest venue at 5,280 feet.

Professional teams try different approaches to avoid the effects of the altitude on the body and usually, arriving as close to a game as possible is regarded as the way to go.

The Heat arrived south of the border late Thursday night after beating the Houston Rockets and Butler tried the grasshoppers, a local delicacy along with some tequila. And apparently it worked.

“I love to play all over the world and the past two days were great, I eat local cuisine so I´ll be back,” Butler said. “I had some tequila and crickets (grasshoppers) and it was not bad, I did not eat a thousand of them, but I didn't get tired with the altitude so I´ll eat some more the next time around.”

Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Herro added 21 points and Duncan Robinson and Max Strauss had 12 each for the Heat.

Keldon Johnson scored 22 points for San Antonio. At 9-20, the Spurs are last in the Western Conference.

“We have to learn how to play for 48 minutes, we competed for three quarters and then we let it slip,” Spurs guard Devin Vassell said. “We have to be able to finish these games.”

With the win, the Heat are above .500 just a few months after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.

“We want to make forward progress from here on, coming off from a successful season this shows how tough is to win,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Heat´s coach. “Nothing is guaranteed on this league, there´s a lot of parity, we know the road to success, and we need to do the things that most teams don´t.”

Miami trailed 84-80 entering the fourth, but a three point-play by Robinson put them ahead 87-86 with 10:31 left. The Heat had a 15-6 run and extended the lead to 103-93 on Adebayo's dunk.

The game was the 31st in Mexico, more than any other country outside of the U.S. and Canada. A crowd of 20,160 fans packed the glass-clad, $300 million arena that was built in 2012 and hosts the Capitanes team of the G-League.

“I believe you are doing the things to maybe house an NBA team here, the travelling, the climate, the food, the culture is great,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the game. “Our manifest destiny is to grow outside of the USA, and it makes sense to expand to the south, there´s no doubt that we will continue to consider Mexico (for expansion)”.

In the meantime, Butler can always come back as a tourist to try something else.

“The heat culture and the fans are everywhere here, I´m coming back, I think I´ll do a coffee tour now,”, added Butler. “I love different people I learned so much.”


Heat: Caleb Martin (left ankle sprain) and Udonis Haslem (right Achilles tendinosis) sat out. … The Heat played in Mexico for the second time in their history

Spurs: The Spurs have played in seven of the 31 games held in Mexico in the past 30 years. ... Romeo Langford (foot) sat out.


Heat: Host Chicago on Tuesday night to open a four-game homestand.

Spurs: At Houston on Monday night in the first of three straight road games.


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