On Wednesday November 20, the Gregg Popovich-led Spurs traveled to the nation’s capital to take on the fresh-faced Washington Wizards. San Antonio came into this game looking for a much needed victory to end their losing streak against a struggling Wizards team, led by Bradley Beal. The Wizards came into this game looking for revenge, after losing to the Spurs this past October 26 in San Antonio. Additionally, Washington came into the game losing three of their last four games, and just 1-3 at home on the season.
The Spurs, the more veteran team and a consistent postseason contender, have been unable to find their stride so far this season. Led by the aging LaMarcus Aldridge and former Toronto Raptor Demar DeRozan, one of basketballs more experienced teams came into this contest with hopes of flipping the script on this rough stretch. For Washington, without their franchise player and All-Star point guard John Wall this season, they have looked to Bradley Beal and a slew of youngsters to compete in a league riddled with power-tandems and promising youth.
Despite their lack of wins, Washington finds themselves towards the top of the league in scoring, but also find themselves at the bottom of the league defensively. This trend continued against the Spurs.
The two teams continued unsystematic play out of the gates with consecutive turnovers for each team before veteran Isaiah Thomas found the bottom of the net. Good offense and sloppy defense proved to be the trend for both teams in the opening quarter. Despite several fouls and turnovers, both teams put up their share of shots and points. Led by the duo of DeRozan and Aldridge, San Antonio took a 38-35 lead at the end of the first quarter, with little offensive help for Washington coming from Beal, scoring just two points in the opening twelve minutes.
The second quarter continued the same for both teams. Davis Bertans, offseason acquisition from San Antonio, scored the opening points for Washington. Beal’s offensive struggles continued in the second quarter, but Washington showcased a more balanced offense with production from Bertans, rookie Rui Hachimura, and big-man Thomas Bryant. Veterans Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli led the Spurs offensive attack with DeRozan, as the Wizards big men were able to keep Aldridge scoreless for the quarter. Popovich and the Spurs entered the halfway mark up 69-63, holding Beal to just six first half points, a trend that was to change in the third quarter.
Down six points to start the second half, an assumed halftime lecture from Scott Brooks seemed to light a fire under Washington as they came out of the break firing on all cylinders. Forward Moe Wagner said after the game, regarding the third quarter, “We just came out of the locker room with a mindset to have a good defensive quarter. All of our focus would be on the defensive end, rebound the basketball and finish possessions.” After a strong offensive start and slow defensive effort, Washington’s offense continued, and the defense tightened up.
Then, Beal took over. Over the minute and a half long stretch from 9:00 – 7:29, he scored nine straight points on 4-4 shooting and his twelfth point of the quarter. After continued offensive production from Washington and better defensive efforts, Beal’s Wizards took their first lead of the game since the 7:52 mark of the first quarter on a Thomas 27-foot three-point jumper with 5:08 left in the quarter to go up 87-85. In the final five minutes of the quarter, Beal continued his hot streak, going 4-4 with nine more points to put his quarter total at 21 on 9-9 shooting. Washington won the quarter and went into the final 12 minutes up by three points. They also kept San Antonio under 30 points for the quarter, the only such quarter of the game.
Off a Bertans assist, Beal continued his play, opening the fourth quarter with a score to extend the lead to five points. The two teams continued back and forth on offense, both scoring in a wide variety spread amongst many scorers. Beal’s fourteenth and final basket of the game came with 4:00 left in the quarter to give Washington their largest lead of the game, putting them up 129-117. After a couple scores on both sides, Washington led by 12 with 2:22 left, 132-120.
Then, the defensive woes of the Wizards continued. With 16.1 seconds left coming off of a Rudy Gay dunk, Washington led by just two points. It appeared that things were about to completely fall apart yet again for Washington. After a pair of Beal free throws, DeRozan drew a foul on Wagner with 9.9 seconds left, down by four. With the two free-throws, San Antonio would be down just two. DeRozan was 13 for 15 from the line on the game.
However, he somehow missed both shots. After clanging both off the rim and a missed put-back by Rudy Gay, Jordan McRae was able to corral the rebound, knock down two free-throws, and seal the 138-132 victory for the Wizards. Washington improved to 4-8 on the season with their second home win. San Antonio dropped their seventh straight game, their longest losing streak in the 20 years of coach Popovich leading the team, and fell to 5-10 on the season.
With the 138-point outpour, the Wizards earned their league-leading fourth game with 130-or-more points, despite another high scoring game by their opponents. As a team, Washington shot 60% from behind the three-point line and 58.7% overall from the field.
Beal led the way for Washington after his 21-point breakout third quarter, shooting 9 for 9. Beal ended the game with a 33 points. This 30-plus point game was his fourth-straight of the season. Hachimura contributed 15 points and seven rebounds in a starting role. Ish Smith and Bertans each provided 21 points off the bench. The Wizards’ bench overall scored 63 total points, compared to 43 of San Antonio’s bench. DeRozan’s 31 points led the way for the Spurs and was followed up by 19 from third year player Bryn Forbes, and 18 by veteran Rudy Gay. Aldridge was silenced for the most of the second half and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Washington will look to continue their offensive production and improve on their 4-8 season home against Charlotte on Friday. The Spurs will look to bounce back and end their skid at seven games in Philadelphia against the 76ers.