Washington Wizards Preview: Three Keys To Beating The San Antonio Spurs


We’re three games into the season and it’s still obviously too early to judge the Washington Wizards. But, after three contests, there has been multiple recurring themes.

Randy Wittman‘s club is pushing the ball more than ever, both off makes and misses. John Wall and Bradley Beal have carried the team to both of their victories. The new style, which involves a lot of running and gunning, fits the guards’ skill-set. However, the team has struggled on the defensive end of the floor. For them to beat elite-level teams, they need to get back to doing what made them a top team in the East: playing defense.

The Wizards have enough talent to compete in back-and-forth contests, but the elite teams don’t play that game. You can’t go back-and-forth against a team like the San Antonio Spurs. Eventually, you have to be able to get stops.

Washington has struggled in that regard, especially at the start of games. They’ve increased their defensive intensity late in games, but that sort of attention has to be there for 48 minutes — not just the final seven or eight.

On Wednesday night, the Washington Wizards will have a chance to play against the aforementioned Spurs. They dropped their first game at home to the New York Knicks, so beating a team of San Antonio’s caliber at home would be quite the first win in D.C.

Here’s what they need to do to get that “w”:

Don’t give LaMarcus Aldridge any space

This is a lot easier said than done.

Aldridge is a perennial All-Star and one of the best big men in the game. So, pair him up with the best power-forward/center of all time in Tim Duncan and you’re going to have a problem on your hands.

While the transition has gone smoothly thus far, Aldridge is still figuring out his role in San Antonio. He was the go-to player with the Portland Trail Blazers, but that won’t always be the case with the Spurs. In some instances, the Spurs will defer to their guards or Kawhi Leonard. Aldridge will have to become accustomed to San Antonio’s offense and that will take some time.

With that said, solving the Aldridge puzzle isn’t going to be easy, even if he’s still figuring his new team out.

There’s one thing you cannot do with Aldridge, though: you cannot give him any space. There aren’t a lot of bigs (if any, really) in the NBA that can score from the post, facing up and from three. Aldridge can do all of those things.

Washington doesn’t have a Chris Bosh or Anthony Davis on their team, unfortunately. Kris Humphries (poor soul) might get stuck with the assignment. Aldridge has been lighting it up lately — he scored 19 against the Knicks and 24 against the Boston Celtics –so the transition hasn’t really affected his scoring.

Humphries, or whoever is guarding Aldridge, cannot give him any space. He’s going to hit tough shots, just like Carmelo Anthony did on Saturday night. But, if you don’t give him open looks, you can live with it.

Attack Tony Parker

Parker, at this stage of his career, isn’t the defender nor player he used to be. It’s weird to think that Parker was a legitimate MVP challenger at one point. But, father time has never lost.

At 33-years-old, Parker has lost a step.

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He has to defend the likes of Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook on virtually a nightly basis.

Things won’t get any easier on Wednesday night as he’ll be tasked with defending John Wall, who’s making his case as a darkhorse MVP contender as well.

The Spurs play good team-oriented defense, so it would be dumb (to put it bluntly) to think Wall is going to have all the clean looks he can get.

Still, he’s going to get his chances. He’s done a great job of putting pressure on his defenders this season as Wall has attacked the basket and consistently gotten to the free throw line.

Parker isn’t Jose Calderon, but he’s still clearly the weakest link — at least defensively — in the Spurs’ starting lineup. Wall has to make him work.

Close out on the shooters

I glanced over the Spurs’ roster before writing this, and man, they don’t have a single player on their team that can be left open. And yes, Rasual Butler, that includes you. We won’t forget how awesome you were for the first half of the season last year…

Washington has to play better defense and closing out on shooters is a big part of that. Their late closeouts were noticeable against the Knicks last weekend. Did New York hit some tough, contested shots? Sure, but they also got plenty that were either contested late or wide open.

If Washington fails to close out on San Antonio’s shooters, it will be a long night for the home team.

The Washington Wizards have to commit themselves defensively, even if that means they have to play at a slower pace. Defense is their bread and butter.

Next: Wall, Beal Have Chance To Be Legendary

All of the top teams in the league excel on that end of the floor. The Golden State Warriors are known for revolutionizing the way the game is being played offensively, but they were also first in defensive efficiency last year. You can’t beat the top teams without getting stops.