Opening Statements: Wizards vs Spurs, Game 38 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Spurs, Game 38

Updated: January 13, 2015

Washington Wizards vs San Antonio Spurs - Nov. 26, 2012

In all likelihood, the Washington Wizards will have to wait until 2016 to see if they can beat the Spurs in San Antonio for the first time since 1999. Sure, they could meet the Spurs in the NBA Finals this June, but really?

Currently, John Hollinger’s ‘Playoff Odds,’ in ironic single quotes, give the Spurs a 2.7 percent chance of being the Western Conference representative in the championship round. One easy way to call bullshit is to observe the 11.5 percent chance that’s given to the L.A. Clippers via “equations.” The Clippers are one of the more overrated teams in the NBA. (I’ll admit that there’s bias in that statement.)

Still, move to the Eastern Conference and said odds give the Hawks a 41.5 percent chance of making the NBA Finals and the Raptors a 18 percent chance. Not outlandish until you notice that the 6.4 percent chance currently bestowed upon the Washington Wizards is less than the 13.6 percent (!!) chance given to the Milwaukee Bucks and the 8.9 percent chance given to the Detroit Pistons (and the 4.9 percent chance given to the Chicago Bulls).

What the numbers? Why are we even discussing this?

Maybe we should discuss how the Spurs have now beaten the Wizards 17 straight times overall. Washington has not won since November 2005, not quite a full decade ago. Talk about futility versus big brother. What do the numbers say about tonight? They say that Washington is a 1.5-point advantage, which essentially means that if not for playing at home—if these teams were to play at a neutral location—that the Spurs would be favorites to win, just like Big Brother is always the favorite in age.

Keys to the game: Share the damn ball like no one is watching, attack to get to the free throw line, and friggin’ guard Boris Diaw. The contest will be won or lost on the merits of John Wall nonetheless.

Once again stopping by TAI to answer some questions about San Antonio is Jessie Blanchard (@blanchardJRB), artist and Spurs follower for years who now has his own website, Indubitably Hoops, where I took part in a pre-game Q&A.

Kick that boot, roll that spur, leggo…

Teams: Wizards vs Spurs
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia
Television: CSN/NBATV
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards fav’d by 1.5 points.

Q #1: With the West making moves (OKC, HOU, PHO, DAL, MEM, and with GSW, POR and possibly LAC on the prowl), what options are there for the Spurs?

@blanchardJRB: The San Antonio Spurs appear vulnerable, the Oklahoma City Thunder are out of the playoff picture for the moment, and the Western Conference seems more open than ever, which has started the arms race a little early with the Dallas Mavericks trading for Rajon Rondo, Houston signing Josh Smith, the Memphis Grizzlies trading for Jeff Green, and Phoenix making a sneaky good pickup in Brandan Wright. Ostensibly, all of these teams entered the season trying to close the gap with the San Antonio Spurs, though this team is a long ways away from the one that peaked last June. Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker will have to count as their primary mid-season acquisitions, as we’ve yet to see the Spurs starting lineup at full health. The Spurs lack assets to upgrade the top seven or eight in their rotation so a trade seems unlikely. The most likely opportunity for San Antonio to improve their personnel is a veteran buyout after the trade deadline, and a name that intrigues is Andrei Kirilenko should the 76ers ever see their way to releasing him.

Q #2: The Wizards were in it against the Spurs recently until the fourth quarter happened. What does S.A. need to keep doing, or change?

@blanchardJRB: Washington feasted on midrange jumpers early in their previous meeting, and while the Spurs would prefer to lock and trail a little better to contest those shots, they’re comfortable keeping the Wizards in that range where percentages tend to eventually even out. The Spurs have had fits with turnovers from time to time and a Wizards’ victory probably starts with a bunch of those leading to transition opportunities, buttressed by offensive rebounds and free throws. Tony Parker is still not up to speed, and Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli were out during Saturday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, so they’ll need Cory Joseph, Patty Mills, and Boris Diaw to remain aggressive, push the tempo, and create scoring opportunities. Diaw, in particular, turned his match-up against Kris Humphries into a key scoring run last game. He’s not a great player by any means, but give him the wrong defender and he’ll pick your team apart like one.

Q #3: Favorite thing Popovich has done over the past year. Also, least favorite thing Popovich has done over the past year.

@blanchardJRB: Managing minutes and rotations have been difficult with the early season injuries, and one of the tactics I’ve been a fan of are the hockey-style substitutions the Spurs have used in recent games. The only lineup with continuity from last year is the foreign legion unit (Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, and Tiago Splitter—though Aron Baynes or Jeff Ayres can fill-in for Splitter). Substituting five-for-five has helped keep players fresh while still providing some lineup stability and keeping players comfortable in their roles. Criticisms of Popovich are nitpicking, so I suppose I wish he were a little less callous with the media (they’re just trying to do their jobs).

From November 2012:
Gregg Popovich on his Marriage to Tim Duncan.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.