Big Brother San Antonio Puts the Wizards in Their Place, 112-100 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Big Brother San Antonio Puts the Wizards in Their Place, 112-100

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Updated: November 27, 2016

The Wizards had to play a near-perfect game to maybe, almost have a chance. And even then, you’re never going to out-Spurs the Spurs in cultivated talent, strategy, or methodical patience.

As any game between any two teams on any given night in the NBA, it started hotly contested as each franchise, fresh off winning the day before (1), was geared to keep momentum while feeling the opponent out. The Wizards timidly fronted two wins in a row for the first time all season, while San Antonio sported a 9-0 road record.

After winning the tip Washington ran a choreographed play and Bradley Beal found himself getting the ball while on the move and an angle into the lane. The San Antonio defense collapsed and Beal found Marcin Gortat for a bucket at the rim. The Wizards, I’m afraid, played to their maximum potential in keeping it close, 22-23, with the Spurs after one quarter. John Wall pushed the pace and took smart shots; Beal scored 8 points on 7 shots; Otto Porter scrapped; Gortat was present; and Markieff Morris at least offered a stiff challenge to the opposing 4, LaMarcus Aldridge. The teams scored in flurries over the first five minutes—a 12-12 draw with each squad 5-for-9 from the floor.

But Washington’s defense, particularly from that 4 position, quickly rolled down the hill on the path of being a step behind. Thanks to the snappy Spurs ball movement, Morris could not even get a contest up versus an Aldridge 19-footer—buckets. Then Morris seemed to be targeted for a switch onto Kawhi Leonard, who hit a 3 in Morris’ face. According to NBA.com player tracking, opponents are hitting 47.1 percent from 3-point land on Morris this season. That’s bad. With little choice, although Scott Brooks often varies his first player off the bench, Andrew Nicholson was inserted at nearly the six-minute mark of the first (similar as in Orlando). Nicholson missed two wide open 3-point shots (red carpet rolled out by David Lee) and struggled in similar manners on defense. Pick your poison, one could presume.

Morris would later get ejected after losing his cool early in the third quarter (2), but not before dunking very hard on one Daniel Green—damn. But some consequences of the ejection: Ian Mahinmi, making his season debut (3), and Jason Smith were minus-6 in nine minutes together, and Mahinmi and Nicholson were minus-3 in just under five minutes. Later on, when the Wizards were desperate to make it respectable, Porter saw time at the 4. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich just patted Washington on the head and checked Porter with Aldridge. The spirt of the Wizards was crushed, who knows exactly when.

“Also, they made a lot of shots late in the shot clock, some tough shots. But they do it all the time. It’s not like it just happened, that’s how they play,” said coach Scott Brooks afterward. “They’re so disciplined and [have] so much experience, and a lot of guys can make shots. They have a lot of shooters on the floor. But we put them on the free throw line 29 times and we couldn’t get there. That’s definitely a big part of their win.”

What also didn’t bode well: cheers were much louder for Pau Gasol hitting a jumper for San Antonio’s first points—including from a contingent of Spanish media seated above section 104 (4)—than for Beal popping a 3 to put the Wizards up 7-4. Wall and Beal each played more than their starting counterparts in the opening period, so it was a significant blow when Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons battled harder when it was presumed the Wizards would have an advantage. Appearing fresher than Wall in the second quarter, Tony Parker (11 points in the period) found his way into the paint several times, and even had Jason Smith stumbling backwards into the lane while fouling Parker. When asked before the game who has assumed the main leadership role with Tim Duncan’s retirement, Gregg Popovich didn’t hesitate to say Parker. The Spurs lightly put pressure on their opponent’s neck, turning a one-point first quarter advantage into a halftime lead.

Washington’s starters actually finished plus-2 in just over 16 minutes of action on the night, but so many hats have been hung on that peg that it’s about to crack. The bench was bad as usual. After the opening five, only one of the next eight most-used lineups finished in the positive—the desperado crew of Trey Burke, Beal, Marcus Thornton, Porter, and Gortat that actually outscored the Spurs 10-9 in nearly three minutes on the court. It just felt like the Wizards were star-struck kids playing in front of their NBA idols, so it was especially un-plucky to hear them after the game bothered by a free throw discrepancy of 15 (14-29, Spurs); San Antonio made 13 more.

They were a more aggressive team. They got a lot of easy shots and I think we missed some easy shots,” opined John Wall when it was over. “There was a stretch in the second quarter where we were missing and they were coming down and executing all the plays they wanted and getting the easy basket.” What perhaps the Wizards don’t fully get it that the Spurs work very hard at making it look easy. An overwhelming presence of black and silver in the crowd and spurts of a “Go, Spurs, Go” chants also makes it kind of hard to be a Wizard.

Every team in the league probably wishes they can do what they do, but not every team is built the way they are. I think their system is made for their caliber players, and the guys that they have,” expressed Beal. “We have a different system, we have a way that we play and we’ve shown that we can be successful. San Antonio is not an invincible team, they can be beat, just like everybody else. At the end of the day it’s about defense, and we didn’t play it at the end of the day.” According to the hustle stats, the Spurs certainly did contest 5 percent more field goal attempts than their opponents.

San Antonio’s offense started the third quarter by dropping Kawhi Leonard into the paint like a weight into water; he created a 3-pointer for Danny Green. It didn’t take long for lead Wizards to become nihilists on defense. Gortat halfway bothered to contest a long Gasol 2-pointer. A visibly fatigued Wall didn’t have much fight over a screen to chase Parker. But Washington went hard on offense, scoring 32 points in the third (compared to 22, 22, and 24 in other quarters). Wall scored 11, Beal scored 7, Morris scored 7 (before his ejection), and Gortat scored 4 in the third period—it seemed like they had to work so hard for those points. San Antonio meanwhile ground down their weary opponent with 306 passes to 423 touches per NBA.com tracking data; the Wizards passed the ball 16 percent less and allotted 12 percent fewer touches.

The fourth quarter was more of a formality, even though Brooks held on for hope. He left his starters in, sans the ejected Morris, until 67 seconds and a 15-point deficit were left. Of course Popovich didn’t risk it from his end, either, leaving some of his main horses in to gallop over Washington until the same time-stamp.

“I’m not disappointed in the way we competed,” explained Brooks. “A couple breaks here and there we could have made it even a closer game.”

It wasn’t a totally fruitless loss for Washington. It was the San Antonio Spurs. But the long faces around Washington’s locker room, players looking for ways to duck the media, and a general sense of exasperation say it’s no longer early in the season. Fifteen games, nearly one-fifth of the schedule, are in the book for this 5-10 team that seems to be losing belief that it can avoid the brink. Washington still seems to have the right coach for culture-building—Brooks is locked in for the next four seasons at guaranteed money—but he and his players, those who can actually play, must also overcome factors outside of their control.

Next on Washington’s radar: Sacramento visits on Monday (after playing the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday), they fly to Oklahoma City on Tuesday to play the Thunder on Wednesday, and then they’ll head to San Antonio for a Friday rematch with the Spurs. The Wizards haven’t won in Alamo City since 1999.

Noted.

#1) Scott Brooks, after his initial mention above, further expanded on San Antonio’s cool under pressure:

“They don’t panic when the shot clock is down to 5 or 6 seconds, it’s kind of like they thrive in that, and they understand that they have another pass, or two, and they make it.”

Indeed, the facts check out. The Spurs field an eFG% of 47.3 percent with 4 or less seconds on the shot clock. The Wizards’ eFG% in that span is 28.9 percent.

#2) Tomas Satoransky has struggled the past two games: 24 minutes, 0-7 FGs, 0-5 3Ps, 0-0 FTs, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 fouls, and minus-16. Brooks on Sato:

#3) Ian Mahinmi played 14 minutes in his debut: 0-1 FGs, 1-2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls, and minus-11. His post-game feelings:

#4) Insult to injury: Bradley Beal got mic-checked after the game.


  1. Of course, it became a talking point for the Wizards that San Antonio played in Boston at noon on Friday while the Wizards had a 7 pm game in Orlando.
  2. The Wizards certainly seemed overly susceptible to some tight calls not in their favor.
  3. Mahinmi looked totally rusty, as expected, and his first points in the Wizards uniform was, you guessed it, a made free throw; he missed the second.
  4. Normally above section 104 is known as “Blogger Row.”
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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.