Another game, another defeat for the San Antonio Spurs. After the 138-132 loss to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night, the Spurs are the not-so-proud owners of a seven-game losing streak and a 5-10 record.
This time, San Antonio can’t even blame a slow start. On the backs of a new starting lineup of Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl, the Spurs led for most of the first quarter before going into the second period with a 38-35 advantage. In the second, the Spurs got up by as many as 11 points before the Wizards closed the gap to 69-63 at the half.
The good guys once again pushed their lead to ten points in the third quarter, however Washington responded with a quick 10-0 to tie the game and then extended it to a 22-3 run to give themselves a 94-85 advantage. Before the end of the period, the Spurs were able to regain their footing and only trailed by three points, 101-98, when the fourth quarter began.
The final stanza started poorly for the Spurs, who trailed 127-115 with four minutes remaining. But they battled back and actually got within two points. Unfortunately, missed free throws (two by DeRozan and one by Forbes, most notably) prevented the Spurs from ever being able to attempt a game-tying shot.
This was another disappointing loss in a string of disappointing losses. The 4-8 Wizards are a horrible defensive team but the Spurs managed to play even worse defense to pull out another L. No silver linings in this one; just more disjointed basketball from the Silver and Black.
Spurs at Wizards – Final Grades
Going against an extra small Wizards squad, LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t look particularly focused or motivated — and he certainly didn’t show any signs that he was desperate to lead the Spurs to a win. When he was physical enough to get into the paint, he had success — hitting five of six shots in the lane. But when he drifted to the midrange, his effectiveness waned, as he was 1-for-9 on shots outside of the paint. Against such a small team, Aldridge needed to be physical and live in the lane. That didn’t happen. He rebounded better than usual, passed better than usual and wasn’t too terrible on defense. That said, the Spurs needed Aldridge to anchor their attack on both ends and he apparently wasn’t willing.
This is another game where DeMar DeRozan carried the team for long stretches. Putting up 31 points on 13 shots with five assists and only one turnover? That’s great production no matter how you slice it. Defensively, DeRozan wasn’t good. He got blown by off the dribble a handful of times. Then again, in San Antonio’s defensively challenged starting lineup, DeRozan was asked to do more on defense than he usually does.
Bryn Forbes was embarrassingly overmatched for most of the night on the defensive end. When he was put on Bradley Beal, who had 27 of his 33 points in the second half, it was a horror show. Offensively, I can’t complain too much. Forbes shot a couple questionable shots but otherwise he was productive. His seven assists were more than he had in his previous six games combined, as he was much better than usual at finding the open man — particularly when coming off screens. (He also played a few minutes at point guard due to Derrick White being out with a foot injury but that didn’t have much of an impact on his season-high in assists.)
In his first start of the season, Patty Mills did well on the offensive end. He pushed the tempo, provided juice and liveliness to the rest of the starters, knocked down his shots and he even dropped off a few really good passes. Mills’ issues were on defense, where he was unable to interrupt the proceedings unless he was drawing an offensive foul or swiping a steal. While he was disruptive at times at that end, it wasn’t nearly enough to stop him from being a liability on D.
Jakob Poeltl continues to round into form. In the starting lineup for the first time this season, he was decent enough. The good: He hustled on defense and protected the rim. His wherewithal and finishing on offense were better than we’ve seen for much of the campaign. The bad: His perimeter defense was lacking, which made it difficult to keep him on the court. Poeltl wasn’t closing out well on shooters or defending against drives effectively. And while he was good enough on the defensive glass, one would assume he could have pulled down more offensive rebounds going against an undersized team like the Wizards.
Rudy Gay continues to play hard and play pretty well. He looked bouncy tonight and he was competing. Gregg Popovich had him playing small forward in the first half, which hurt Gay’s ability to compete on the defensive end. He’s immobile against most teams — and looked especially immobile against a run-and-gun Wizards team. Overall, Gay might be the only player who shouldn’t carry much of the blame for the losing streak.
It was a tale of two halves for Dejounte Murray, as he came off the bench for the first time this season. In the first half, he was horrible. He looked like the worst player on the court and was making mistakes on both ends of the court. In the second half, he got much better, thankfully. In 13.5 minutes in the second half, Murray had 13 points, three rebounds and two steals on 6-for-8 shooting and hit his only three-point attempt. But while he was much better in the final two periods, he was far from perfect. He had a couple gambles blow up in his face on the defensive end and overexhuberance led to a pair of costly turnovers on the offensive end.
In the first half, it looked like Marco Belinelli was on his way to a breakout performance. He scored 10 points in the first two quarters on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor and 2-for-4 shooting on three-pointers. Then he played 2.5 minutes in the second half. Obviously, Belinelli wasn’t good defensively but it was a bit strange to see him not to get a chance to prove whether his first half was a fluke after an entire season of struggles.
DeMarre Carroll only had a cameo in the second quarter before playing for seven minutes in the fourth. While he hustled and played hard on the defensive end, it’s difficult to point to more than one or two positive possessions. On offense, Carroll didn’t do much right either. Then again, it’s not like he’s being put in a position to gain a rhythm before playing in the guts of the game.
The newly demoted Trey Lyles got seven first half minutes against Washington. He missed a three-pointer and grabbed rebounds at a high rate. I wouldn’t say this outing hurt or helped Lyles’ case for more minutes.
I just don’t get it. The Spurs are facing a very good offensive team in the Wizards so what does Pop do? He weakens the defense of the starting lineup by starting Mills over Murray. Washington has one star player in Beal and Pop’s starting lineup forced either Mills, Forbes or DeRozan to defend him. That’s … not smart. And it’s not like Pop went with a supercharged offensive lineup either as Poeltl over Lyles lowers the ceiling for the offense. Pop never adjusted as Beal was going off by throwing a decent defender at him. Using Gay at small forward against a small and fast team was a head-scratcher. And if you are going to wait all season for Belinelli to show signs of breaking out of his slump, why bench him in the second half after he finally, finally exhibited a pulse? And how about giving Carroll a fair chance to earn minutes instead of throwing him in the fire in the fourth? Unless his main goal this year is to demoralize all his young players, I can’t point to anything right Pop did.
Next Up for the Spurs
On Friday, the Spurs travel to Philadelphia to play a 9-5 76ers team that is 5-0 at home. That’s looking like consecutive loss number eight unless Pop and the coaching staff finds a clue between now and then and actually gives the team a chance to win the game.