It is tough to expect much from a Wizards trip to the friendly confines of the AT&T Center. In fact, Washington hasn’t been victorious against the Spurs in San Antonio in over 13 years. Coming off a difficult loss the night before in Memphis and again missing standout rookie Bradley Beal due to a wrist injury, it was a classic opportunity for a young team to pack it in against a superior opponent. And although most fans probably hoped this was just a fearful thought of their own, it was clear from the onset that the players felt that way themselves.
Washington came out extremely flat; often raising the question about whether the team knew the object was to score as frequently as possibly. On the other end of the court, the Spurs moved the ball with ease, showing off with effortless cuts, precise passing and accurate shooting. Not much analysis has to be done about why a team that is 11-34 would struggle so much against the one with the NBA’s best record (37-11), but even by those standards it was quite painful to watch what took place in the first half. The Spurs opened up a 51-26 lead, with Washington scoring NINE points in an abysmal 2nd quarter.
Although most presumably changed the channel at this point, the Wizards fought back like they have in so many games this year (only to fall short, just like in so many games this year). They cut the lead to 6 in the 4th quarter at 73-67 and had a couple 3-pointers bounced in instead of out, we could’ve been watching a game come down to the wire. Instead, the Spurs made the necessary plays to stay ahead and won comfortably 96-86. There are no moral victories in this business but the Wizards came as close as possible to earning one. A 4th straight loss is sure to hurt after that fast start with John Wall back in the lineup but this team learned that turning the offensive dial a up from ‘amateur rec league’ to ‘potential professional franchise’ can do wonders for the scoreboard.
A lot of the same problems we’ve seen all season persisted again for this team. Poor jump shooting and free throw shooting, lack of defensive rotations and mental lapses in simple man-to-man defense, and no offensive sets in the half court that led to easy points. But it’s tough to criticize the team too much in a single game against the league’s best team when they are simply not in the same class and cannot compete on that level. The reasons for their brilliance and our ineptitude run much deeper than these 48 minutes on the hardwood. A takeaway can simply be that the team played hard and fell short against a much more talented squad. We should look at their franchise infrastructure and model ours in similar fashion. See below for a couple key points that stood out to me during tonight’s game:
- First and foremost, every NBA fan around the league is pulling for Tim Duncan. That fall was scary, and for Wizards fans far too reminiscent of the Gilbert Arenas-Gerald Wallace disaster. For a basketball icon in his twilight years in the league, we can only hope it was a minor injury and he’ll be back on the court before long.
- Nene was brought to Washington to give us an inside presence that we sorely missed. Although he’s shown flashes with crafty passing and a rugged post game, it’s become very clear to me that we cannot run the offense through him if we want to be consistently successful. He lacks an array of post moves that create easy baskets for the team. I believe he would fit in great as a 3rd option but may not have the requisite ball skills to be the focal point.
- Our 3-point shooting tonight was very poor. Out of the 22 attempts that went up, we connected on just 6 of them. Many of those were in the 4th quarter and would’ve done a lot to cut into the deficit. John Wall was great at the drive and dish but the shooters on the wings need to start knocking down the open looks.
- Chris Singleton, who has long been in Randy Wittman’s doghouse, played very well tonight, tallying 11 points and 4 rebounds and was a +16 on the floor in just 20 minutes. I’ve felt for some time that he deserves to be inserted back into the rotation (especially when the alternate is Trevor Ariza) and hopefully tonight was the showcase necessary to do so.
- Tony Parker, who clearly continues to be one of the most underappreciated players in the league, did whatever he wanted tonight. He put up 19 points and 12 assists and specifically in the 4th quarter was running circles around A.J. Price, both with and without the ball. I’d like to see John Wall grow up as a defender and be able to check the many elite point guards this league has to offer.
- As previously mentioned, tough loss for the Wizards but they showed good resolve in turning a would-be blowout into a single digit contest. The road does not get easier ahead however; the team is heading back to Verizon Center but the next three games are against likely playoff teams in the Clippers, Nets, and Knicks. Hopefully the team gets a healthy Bradley Beal back soon so we can truly test how we match up against the league’s best.