That one loss just happened to be in the most recent meeting, with the Wizards claiming a 101-93 victory against a reeling Spurs team.
Those times are a distant memory now. San Antonio's record dropped to 23-16 after the loss, and they were missing a guy named Kawhi Leonard, who will be a focal point of the game plan. Back then, LaMarcus Aldridge was still hitting buckets in Portland, and David West was earning $12 million in Indiana. And the Foreign Legion was still intact.
Nine months after, things are different. Washington, in their third full year coached by Randy Wittman, won't have Paul Pierce to support John Wall and Bradley Beal.
But Washington is still one of the better Eastern Conference teams. Wall is the elder statesman of the starting backcourt and he's 25 freakin' years old. He's averaging 22.0 points, up from 17.6 last season, with 6.7 assists, 2.7 blocks and 2 steals per game, putting him in the same elite zipcode as Kawhi Leonard as the only players in the NBA to average two blocks and two steals per game. There are few scarier sights in the NBA than Wall with a full head of steam, darting to the rim and uncoiling his body.
Case in point.
Oh, also there's Wall's running mate to contend with. Through four games, Bradley Beal's usage rate has crept up to 29 percent and his shooting efficiency has increased, despite hoisting a high volume of catch-and-shoot jumpers (5.0 per game).
Wall and Beal account for 44 percent of the Wizards offense and that doesn't include assists. Beyond that, especially since Pierce escaped to the Clippers, the offensive options become murkier. There's Ramon Sessions, Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and ... Gary Neal? Yeah, that may be a problem especially if Gortat is the primary interior option.
Gortat is the same guy who tried the Dream Shake and failed miserably.
If last season is any indication, Washington is one of the better defensive outfits in the league (third in defensive rating in 2014-15). Wall envelops passing lanes and doubles as one of the few point guards that can legitimately block shots. Randy Wittman's defensive scheme allows Washington to create turnovers without overcompensating with aggression. Gortat, especially, prefers to drop back at the elbows and funnel guards to the proper spots on the pick-and-roll.
Matchup of the game: Kawhi against anyone. His defensive exploits are required viewing at this point. He won't be fazed even against an athletic freak like Wall or a perimeter sniper like Beal. His absence from the previous meeting will be apparent from the opening tip. On the offensive front, Kawhi seems to add another element to his game with each night that he plays. His pull-up and fadeaway jumpers are smoother than a stick of butter.
Stat watch: 28.9. Take this for what it's worth, considering there are 78 games remaining in the season. But the Spurs, well-known as being ahead of the curve in the use of analytics, are taking a higher volume of mid-range shots this season. Mid-range shots are the least efficient shots in basketball. Call it the Aldridge effect. The New York Knicks (29.9) are the only team averaging more mid-range shots than the Spurs this season. As a result, the number of three-point attempts for the Spurs have dipped. The good news? At least the Spurs are converting from behind the line at a 39.5 percent clip, placing them ninth in the NBA in three-point efficiency.
Prediction: Spurs by 7. Maybe. Who knows?