The Washington Wizards snapped their three game slide with a 116-106 win over the visiting San Antonio Spurs. Led by Markieff Morris and his 15 points on a perfect 7-of-7 outing from the floor, the Wizards used a big second quarter to take control of the game. The bench stepped up in a big way, they scored 61 of the 116 points the team scored. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 13 points, but he left the game late in the second quarter with a left knee injury. The Spurs have been without Kawhi Leonard all year, they can’t afford to lose Aldridge for an extended amount of time. Credit to Washington for not letting off the gas though, they followed up a strong second quarter with a strong third. It was a big win for Washington, especially considering that Bradley Beal scored just seven points.
“I thought the guys played extremely hard on both ends. I like the fact that we didn’t make shots in that first quarter but we kept competing, we kept moving the basketball, we kept sharing the ball. Sooner or later you’re going to get rewarded with some good opportunities, and in that second quarter, we did.” -Scott Brooks
The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, the Wizards have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot this Thursday. They have two more games this week and just eight left in the regular season. The standings are still pretty fluid between three and eight, but they have to take care of business on their end of things.
Ball Movement: In a matchup with one of the better teams in the league, one of the better teams in the past decade in moving the ball, Washington showed they are more than capable. They assisted on 33 of their 46 made baskets, the Wizards have moved the ball well in past games since Wall’s been out, but his felt a bit different. There were lead passes after made and missed baskets, the kind they’ve been missing since Wall left the lineup. There also seemed to be a crispness to the way the ball was moving around the court, there were far fewer wasted possessions than over the course of the last three games. That unselfishness spread to the second unit and that played a big role in that group scoring 61 points.
Balance: The second unit carried more than their fair share of the weight early in the season, since Wall’s injury, those rotations have been different and Washington hasn’t been able to count on that production like they did in the first part of the year. To this point, the second unit was responsible for 18 of the 33 assists the Wizards posted. That balance played a big role in Bradley Beal playing just 27 minutes, Morris scored his 15 points in just 16 minutes. The starters have logged heavy minutes lately, so that was a welcome sight to see the second unit produce at this level.
Rebounding: The Wizards aren’t a bad rebounding team, but they have struggled with closing out solid defensive possessions with a rebound. That wasn’t the case tonight as 40 of the team’s 50 rebounds were defensive. No one on the Spurs grabbed more than six rebounds, Washington had three players that pulled down at least eight rebounds.
Decisive Stretch: The Wizards started the second quarter down three, the Spurs built their lead to as much as eight. Then the home team responded with a 6-0 run. An Otto Porter triple gave the Wizards an eight point lead with 6:28 left in the half. Aldridge cut the deficit to six with 4:50 left, but the Wizards countered and extended their lead to 11 with 3:56 to go in the half. Anytime the Spurs tried to get back into it, the Wizards responded with a run. They closed the half strong, Sessions found Beal for a triple late in the shot clock and Murray missed on the opposite end. Washington held a 14 point lead heading into the half, by outscoring the Spurs 38-21. They didn’t stop there though, they followed that 38 point second quarter with a 29 point third quarter. The Washington lead ballooned was 22 at the end of the third and reached 25 at a point in the fourth.
Urgency: For the first time in a while, the Wizards played most of this game with a sense of urgency. Markieff Morris has been at that place for the past few games, but it looked like it was a team wide issue against San Antonio. Washington showed how good they can be, even in Wall’s absence, by playing hard and with a sense of urgency. The heightened urgency even may have led to the added pace they played with, bodies and the ball were moving. The true test will be if this same level of urgency is present in their coming games, we all know how easy it’s been for the Wizards to get “up” for a game. As well as what they look like when they do the opposite, that will be in mind when they travel to Detroit on Thursday and when they host Charlotte on Saturday.