Preview: Can the Washington Wizards even their season series with the San Antonio Spurs?

Washington Wizards Isaiah Thomas (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Isaiah Thomas (Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards will try and avoid their second consecutive loss when they host the San Antonio Spurs.

The Washington Wizards are less than a dozen games into their 2019-20 season, and they are already about to finish their season series with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Wizards are running through their Western Conference opponents early in the season. Unfortunately, they’ve only won two of their six games versus the opposite conference. They’ve already completed their series with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a series they split 1-1. The Wizards will try and get a 1-1 split against the Spurs, too, after being on the losing end of the 124-122 contest earlier in the season.

Similar Styles

Despite being a perennial powerhouse for decades, the Spurs are closer to the bottom than they are to the top this season. Strangely enough, they have gotten there with a formula similar to the one that has given the Wizards the East’s worst record.

After their loss to the Orlando Magic, the Washington Wizards had (for one day) the NBA’s best offensive rating. Since then, they’ve fallen to third. Their defense rating, however, was (and still is) the second-worst in the NBA. The Wizards’ offense and defense are literally on opposite ends of the spectrum, and the Spurs aren’t much different.

Following a tough loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs currently have the NBA’s sixth-best offensive rating, per Basketball-Reference. Not far behind the Wizards. Their defense dwells down at the bottom with the Wizards, too. The Spurs aren’t quite as bad at defending as the Wizards are, though. Per 100 possessions, the Spurs give up 2.5 fewer points than the Wizards do. Still, that’s only good enough for 27th in the NBA.

So how can the Wizards wind up with a win against a very similar style? For once, the defenseless strategy of ‘just outscore them’ might actually work. Or maybe the answer lies with the buckets they make, but with the ones they miss, and what they do after that.

Crash the Boards

In their first contest, the Washington Wizards struggled to secure rebounds against the San Antonio Spurs. By game’s end, the Spurs had dominated the Wizards down low, grabbing 53 rebounds to the Wizards’ 41.

The Spurs did most of their damage on the offensive end, grabbing 21 offensive rebounds altogether. That’s not unusual for the Spurs, either. They are the only team in the NBA to coral 20 or more offensive rebounds in multiple games this season. Per, the New Yor Knicks currently lead the NBA with 13.3 offensive rebounds per game. The San Antonio Spurs are second, averaging 11.7 offensive boards per game.

The ability to keep a possession alive after a missed shot is invaluable, and the Spurs know that. However, they aren’t great at capitalizing on their extended possessions. Despite being the league’s second-best offensive rebounding team, they rank down at 23rd in terms of second chance points, per The Wizards average more second chance points than the Spurs do even though they grab considerably less offensive rebounds.

Given that the Wizards lost by two points to the Spurs in their first battle of the season, and had just eight offensive rebounds to the Spurs’ 21, it’s not far-fetched to think that securing one (maybe even two) more defensive rebounds last game would have secured a win. That’s probably easier said than done for the Wizards, though, who rank 28th in team rebounding.

Starting a Streak

Eleven games into the season, the Wizards have already had two separate three-game losing streaks. They have had zero consecutive wins.

Since the Wizards’ most recent contest was a loss at the hands of the Orlando Magic, a loss to the Spurs would birth their third losing streak of the season. It would also be their fifth time losing back to back games.

A win over the Spurs, though, might very well launch the Wizards’ first winning streak of the season. After the Spurs, the Wizards take on the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings at home before setting out for an extended road trip.

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The Hornets are currently 5-8 and rank towards the bottom of the NBA in nearly all major statistical categories. The Kings are 5-7 and without De’Aaron Fox.

Are those automatic wins? No. Are they more likely to be won than games against the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, and LA Clippers? Yes, most definitely. And that’s who they Wizards will face during their upcoming road trip. A home-cooking win streak against a couple of likely lottery teams would do a lot for this young group’s confidence before they take on some top dogs.