The Wizards kick off a six-game road-trip with a date near the Alamo this evening, where they haven’t sealed the deal since December 11, 1999. Back then, John Wall and Jan Vesely were 9-years old, and Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Shelvin Mack had barely reached double-digits in age (in Seraphin’s case, he was 10 by about five days). Even old Wizards such as Andray Blatche were just 13; Rashard Lewis was barely 20 with 40 games of his current 934 NBA career games under his belt. In other words, it’s been a while. To be close to specific, it’s been about 6,445,440 minutes, along with one massive fear of Y2K being put to rest, since the Wizards last won in San Antonio, Texas. Will the kids, 14.5-point underdogs, stop the streak tonight? For today’s 3-on-3, TAI’s Dan Diamond (@ddiamond), Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@truth_about_it) analyze in an attempt to predict. Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Which two players will most determine the outcome of tonight’s game?
DAN DIAMOND: It’s my rookie debut for 3-on-3 so I’ll stick with the kids. Jan Vesely will do his flying ninja routine and fire up the Wiz with an acrobatic dunk. Kawhi Leonard will force Nick Young into a string of more terrible shots than usual. Mark my words. Unfortunately, those plays will happen in the first half — the game will be over by the third quarter.
RASHAD MOBLEY: For the Spurs it is Danny Green. His offensive contributions are a bonus, but he makes his mark on the defensive end of the floor. He could present problems to frustrate John Wall, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, which would basically thwart the Wizards offense. For Washington, the Young/Crawford combination will either make life easy for the Wall by spreading the floor and hitting shots, or make life easier for Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs by creating fastbreak opportunities off of their long misses.
KYLE WEIDIE: Why not go with Andray Blatche? I mean, doesn’t he deserve a chance to prove himself away from “home” where he doesn’t have to worry about being booed? OK, so maybe Blatche doesn’t exactly deserve a chance since he’s had about a million, but this is exactly the type of game he would randomly excel in. The likes of Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair or Tiago Splitter aren’t exactly imposing figures for Andray; look for him to contribute 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists off the bench. And yes, I actually typed this. Otherwise, perhaps because of Blatche, the Wizards are the exact type of team that cats like Matt Bonner go off against… Look for Big Red to drop about four trey-balls from deep.
#2) San Antonio is favored by 14.5 points over Washington. Which two stats will have the largest influence on the final score? (Also give a score prediction.)
0-1. As in, San Antonio lost its last game at home. They haven’t dropped two in a row at the AT&T Center since Roger Mason’s days with the team.
12 years, 3 months. As in, that’s how long it’s been since the Wizards beat the Spurs in San Antonio. (With a certain ex-Spur running point for D.C. cough cough.)
Final score: 108-91, Spurs.
MOBLEY: The Spurs shot a respectable 12-for-30 from the 3-point line in their 120-108 loss to the Clippers this past Friday, which would have been fine had the Clippers not shot a red hot 14-for-27. If the Spurs can find the range against the Wizards, life will be easier for Tim Duncan. For the Wizards, it is all about free-throw shooting. As Coach Wittman said after Saturday’s loss against Portland, “They go 26-of -27, we go 16-of-25, add that in there and it makes it difficult to win the game. That hurts in a tight game.” So yes, I’ll go with 117-91 Spurs.
WEIDIE: The Wizards are still one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the NBA, but maybe that’s OK against San Antonio, since the Spurs are not really a team apt toward offensive rebounding (0.237 ORB%, second-worst in the NBA). Of course, with a well-aged team under Gregg Popovich, that’s likely by design. Coach Pop doesn’t want the old legs of his guys giving up too many fastbreak points, so they get back. The Wizards are second best in the NBA in fastbreak points per game (18.7); the Spurs, meanwhile, score 11.2 fastbreak points per game while giving up 13.8 (13th most in the NBA). The Wizards, of course, in their zeal to play fast and score in transition, allow 15.5 fastbreak points per game, second most in the NBA. The Spurs don’t exactly turn opponents over a ton, so if Wall keeps his team in control while the wheels are moving, his Wiz Kids may steal one on the road. So, why not? I’m feeling frisky… 99-97, Wizards get the win.
#3) The Spurs have lost three of five since the All-Star break, all at home (wins over the Bobcats and Knicks, losses versus the Bulls, Thunder and Clippers) — What glaring weakness much be addressed for the San Antonio to contend for the NBA Finals? Or can they contend as-is?
DIAMOND: The usual: Youth. If I read my Timothy Varner correctly, Spurs have dead legs—and this season, more than any, presents problems for older players’ recovery time. Even with Pop resting his stars like crazy, Duncan’s still playing more minutes per day than last year. But it’s tough to gauge how good San Antonio will be in the postseason. Regular season winning percentage? The Spurs looked like contenders last year, before getting knocked off by the Grizzlies in the first round. This year, San Antonio’s beaten Memphis three times—but no Zach Randolph makes that a questionable measuring stick.
MOBLEY: The glaring weakness for the Spurs is the health. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, arguably the two best players for the Spurs, have both been banged up at various points this season. And the Spurs only have to look as far back as last year’s playoffs to see what happens to their team without a full, healthy roster. With everyone healthy, they were a number one seed. When Ginobili went down, they lost in the first round to Memphis. In fairness, Memphis was the hot team last year, but the Spurs lost in seven games, and it is not a stretch to say that Giniboli would not have made the difference in the last two games he missed.
WEIDIE: Duncan is no longer a reliable scorer from the post. His field-goal percentage this season is down to 0.466, about 4.1-percent below his career average, and his FG-percentage at the rim is down to 0.582, a significant low over the last six seasons. Timmy needs help. Is he getting it with a move? Not likely. But I do know a rangy big man on the East Coast, who can also extend the floor with his ability to attempt jump shots, and who has just been yearning to play in the post since the very beginning of this basketball season. Wonder if the Spurs would be interested.