D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Spurs, Game 8
Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Washington Wizards have not won a basketball game in San Antonio, Texas since December 11, 1999. I, like perhaps most of you, was not even 20 years old at the time; a 26-year-old Juwan Howard started for Washington that evening. Since, there have been 13 bloody massacres in the row at The Alamo. The Wizards shot 40.9 percent and lost by 10 points in their last game in San Antonio on February 2, 2013—that’s the closest point differential since 1999. The average margin of Spurs victory over all 13 games: 17.4 points. We’ve been saying that something’s got to give for quite some time now, but something’s really gotta give … I think.
Teams: Wizards at Spurs
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN-FM 106.7
Spread: Spurs favored by 10 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: Here we go again… San Antonio is off to a league-best 7-1 start. How have they gotten here and is this sustainable?
@drew_48moh: Well, the key reason they’re at this point is because of the carryover from last season. Jeff Ayres (formerly Pendergraph) and Marco Belinelli are the only two new additions to the rotation, replacing DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal, respectively. So they’re essentially picking up where they left off in late June, which wasn’t that long ago. They’ve also played a fairly weak schedule. Opening night featured a clearly-in-trouble Memphis Grizzlies team, while the last weak pitted them against a Warriors team without Steph Curry and the shipwreck that is the New York Knicks. You could say Portland is the only possible playoff team they’ve faced, which was—oh, by the way—San Antonio’s only loss.
All that said, it is sustainable. They’re no different from the Spurs teams of last two seasons in terms of both system and personnel, and both of those years featured a trip to the Western Conference Finals at worst.
Q #2: The stats that stand out: the Spurs are fielding the league’s second-lowest defensive rating (96.1 after Indiana’s 92.3), and they take care of the ball, putting up the NBA’s third-lowest turnover percentage (12.8). No big surprises here. So where are the Spurs weak and who must do what to minimize any weaknesses?
@drew_48moh: The Spurs are fortunate to have no major weaknesses, which few NBA teams can say, but there are still weaknesses. This being and older team, it has trouble with athleticism. Even San Antonio’s younger players aren’t major athletes. Kawhi Leonard’s length covers up the fact that he’s actually not all that explosive. But if any team can make that work, it’s the Spurs. Because their offense is so rhythm-based, they’ll have nights where they turn the ball over a lot. So if you can get out on their shooters and cut off penetration, there’s a good chance you can slow them down. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s happened.
Q #3: Kawhi Leonard … I have him on my fantasy league team, and I got him with the 39th overall pick, which I think is a steal. But, for my selfish purposes, I want to see more out of Leonard statistically to start (although, he’s still brought excellent value and is certainly no Jan Vesely). That said, I know it’s early and I know it’s the Spurs—a team’s team. What’s your overall assessment of the guy pegged to be the next ‘it’ Spur (and how much can he improve upon 13 points and 5.9 rebounds per game)?
@drew_48moh: I think there’s a helluva lot of room for improvement with Kawhi, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s a solid spot-up shooter from beyond the arc, his pull-up jumper from the midrange is probably one of the best in the league, and he’s got a solid post game because of his experience at the 4 in college. Right now, he has two main problem. First, as I mentioned earlier, he’s not super explosive getting to the rim. That tends to limit his free throw attempts. It’s also a hard one to really improve upon. The other weakness is that he just hasn’t figured out when to attack and when to defer. Figuring out when it’s your turn to attack in the half court offense and when to move the ball is a feel thing, and he hasn’t quite mastered it yet. He’s got a great understanding of the game in every other aspect, so you would expect him to learn, but he’s not quite there yet.
For fantasy purposes, he’s amazing. He’s a darkhorse to have a 5×5 game this season, and the hardest part of that might be the assists. He’s not going to miss a lot of shots, he’ll get you a 3-pointer or two per game along with plenty of steals and some blocks. He’s also one of the best wing rebounders in the league.
Q #4: How on earth do the Wizards win?
@Truth_About_It: The Washington Wizards cannot win by doing anything in particular themselves, but rather they can only win if the Spurs do something to make themselves lose. Makes no sense, makes complete sense.
Things that will help the Wizards tonight:
- Tim Duncan leaving the floor on a stretcher.
- Kawhi Leonard leaving the floor on a stretcher.
- Tony Parker leaving the floor on a stretcher.
- Gregg Popovich leaving the floor on a stretcher.
OK, so we want none of the above to happen. As a fan of basketball, and life in general, I’m still smarting from the Spurs losing to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals (and clearly did not have the heart to ask a Spurs blogger about such). San Antonio has always been my second team (since they drafted David Robinson), even if they are a distant second from the Wizards. There are warm places in my heart jabbed by spurs nonetheless.
But, as mentioned… San Antonio doesn’t turn the ball over, they guide opponents to poor offensive possessions, they don’t crash the offensive boards (so they can get back on defense in transition—the Spurs only give up 8.5 fastbreak points per game, second lowest in the league), and they are the best in the NBA at keeping opponents from getting offensive rebounds.
The Wizards will have to play a perfect game execution-wise, they will have to be on fire from long distance, and they will have to make virtually all of their free throws to simply give themselves a chance. Thus, they have no chance.
San Antonio is favored by 10 points tonight, so I’m going all-in and saying that the Wizards will undoubtedly return back to Washington with a 2-6 record, which would be a worse winning percentage (25%) than any of the previous five campaigns. Yep, going all-in on a Wizards loss tonight—not even an inkling of hope (which is contrary to my usual guarded optimism). There’s some hope that I will be proven wrong, but I won’t be … Because one day we might be able to talk about some poor kid who just got his driver’s license not even being born yet the last time the Wizards won in a town named after Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Catholic priest who was also the saint of “finding things or lost people” (according to Wikipedia).
The Wizards have lost, are lost, and will lose, and no amount of juju from Portuguese holy spirits will help them—because spirits apparently only show up when it’s time for Nene to reject a shot from Kevin Garnett.