The San Antonio Spurs (31-29) extended their winning streak to three games while ending the Washington Wizards (27-34) eight-game winning steak with a 146-143 overtime victory. While neither team played much defense in this back and forth affair, the Spurs made big plays when it counted most.
In the overtime, a running layup by Keldon Johnson gave the Spurs the lead with 69 seconds remaining. Dejounte Murray got a steal on the next Wizards possession. Although the Spurs failed to score, they got another stop the next time the Wizards got the ball. After Patty Mills hit two free throws to give the good guys a three-point lead, Bradley Beal — who poured in 45 points for Washington — missed a three-pointer at the buzzer and the Spurs had yet another impressive road victory.
With six and a half minutes remaining, San Antonio trailed by seven points. But that quickly changed when an 11-3 run in the next two minutes gave the Spurs a one-point advantage. From that point until DeMar DeRozan barely missed a shot at the end of regulation, neither team led by more than three points.
Despite the teams combining for 289 points, the Spurs and the Wizards only hit a combined 12 three-pointers — with each team making six threes. Before this game, the Spurs were 1-5 in games in which they hit six or fewer threes-pointers.
Spurs at Wizards: Final Grades
While Murray’s decisions weren’t always crisp, it’s difficult to be anything but pleased with how the point guard played. Rebounding-wise, he was a monster. These weren’t your everyday, garden variety rebounds. He was battling among the trees to finish with a career-high 17 boards — and a handful of rebounds were vital. Defensively, he was reasonably solid. His three steals highlighted his effort on that end. Offensively, Murray authored a number of key buckets in the forth and in overtime. Through all the frenetic action, to finish with only one turnover in 42 minutes was immensely impressive.
It would have been difficult for DeRozan to do much more than he did. He hit big shots at big moments. When the Spurs needed him most, he was willing and able to answer the call. His efficiency was great, as he was getting to the line and finding teammates at a beautiful clip. Defensively, DeRozan stayed mentally engaged and rarely lost shooters or cutters — which means it was a good night for him.
I was really impressed with Johnson and his thinking-man’s performance. For a 21-year-old who is essentially a rookie, he exhibited a brilliant basketball mind. Defensively, he made quick rotations, stayed in front of his man and smartly avoided fouls. Even with all the hectic play around him, Johnson rarely made a misstep. Offensively, he flashed an aesthetically-pleasing midrange jumper that he mixed with his typical brawny drives to the hoop. Like his defensive play, Johnson remained under control on offense and played with a perfectionist’s precision.
Poeltl was deceptively really underwhelming against the Wizards. On defense, he wasn’t moving his feet as well as usual and could often be found stumbling out of position. His rebounding was weak; three defensive boards is unacceptable when Washington had 18 offensive rebounds. Poeltl also had a few unintelligent fouls, to put it kindly. The bright spot: Poeltl suddenly is an elite free throw shooter. In his first 45 games of the season, he shot 38% from the line. In his last 14 games, he’s 24-for-31 at the charity stripe for a smokin’ 77.4%.
Other than missing his three-pointers, White was playing well on both ends of the court. Sadly, White sprained his ankle when he came down on Poeltl’s foot. It looked like a rather bad sprain. Considering that there’s less than three weeks to go until the end of the regular season, there’s a definite chance that White will miss the rest of the season. Damn.
For much of the game, Mills wasn’t doing much. He had some decent passes but he was getting scored on so frequently on defense that nothing else really mattered much. Then he surprisingly dropped two three-pointers down the stretch to give the Spurs a sizable boost. Why “surprisingly,” you ask. Well, coming into this game, Mills was 1-for-12 on the season from three-point range during clutch situations. Thus, those two clutch threes tonight made up for a lot of minutes where Mills wasn’t doing a whole lot.
With Mills quiet, the Spurs needed Gay to provide a spark. He did just that. I liked Gay’s shot-selection and he did a better job of letting the game come to him instead of forcing the action. Defensively, I also thought he was better than usual. Considering he was questionable for this game with back soreness, he deserves an extra amount of kudos.
Lonnie Walker IV
Walker was also questionable heading into this game due to a headache. He … shouldn’t have played, in retrospect. He was a step slow — both speed-wise and processing-wise. Walker had one good pass — and that was about it in his 20 minutes. The rest of the time, he was a liability on both ends. Give credit to him for playing through the headache but let’s hope he’s feeling better before the next game.
This was another highly productive game for Eubanks. From skyhooks outside of the paint to bully-ball post-ups in the paint, Eubanks held nothing back on the offensive end. Defensively, he wasn’t always great — particularly in terms of avoiding needless fouls — but he was active and kept his hands in the passing lanes.
With Poeltl and Eubanks in foul trouble, the Spurs needed Gorgui Dieng to step in. The results were impressive. Neither the team nor Dieng skipped a beat when he entered the game. Unlike the two centers ahead of him in the rotation, Dieng challenged shots without fouling. He was also boxing out well. Offensively, his patience in the paint paid dividends and his three-point catapults helped spread the court.
Vassell entered the game to begin the fourth quarter. He was half a step slow navigating around a screen and Davis Bertans hit a three-pointer. Pop instantly removed the rookie from the game.
The good: Pop quickly adjusted to life without White. The plays down the stretch worked really, really well. Pop’s trust in Mills paid off. I loved the confidence he showed in Johnson. His juggling of the centers was also a positive. The bad: Going with an ailing Walker over Vassell was really questionable. Trying to use Mills as a Beal-stopper was infinitely more questionable.
The Spurs will try to win their fourth straight on Wednesday night against the Heat in Miami. The Heat flummoxed the Spurs with a zone defense last week. Let’s hope the good guys are ready for it this time.