For Wizards coach Randy Wittman, it's pretty simple why the Spurs are running roughshod over the competition of late. "They're in tune with one another," he explained. "There's a nucleus here that's been together for 30, 35 years, it seems like, and obviously Pop being the head of it. They don't change what they do a lot and the repetition of years and years of that makes you pretty accustomed to do what needs to be done."
The Spurs have certainly been accustomed to beating Washington at the AT&T Center, they're never lost to them in the AT&T Center. In fact, the last time they dropped a home game to the Wizards , it was way back in December of 1999, when some guy named "Tim Duncan" was starting for the Spurs.
I mean, can you imagine?
In all seriousness, Duncan sat this one out, chilling on the bench in jeans and a tan sports coat, a rare healthy scratch at home. The Spurs still won handily, as they do, after the Wiz hung around with them for a half, trailing just 55-52 at intermission. They blew the game open in the third, outscoring Washington 31-19 and the visitors never got any closer.
The Spurs have consistently been breaking opponents' wills in third, tied with the Warriors for best in the league with a +3.9 scoring differential and leading everybody with a 15.2 net rating. That stat shoots up even further to +6.7 points and a 26.2 net rating if we just count the home games.
They definitely started this one out like they were going to need a prolific third quarter, because Washington came out smoking, even without Bradley Beal, who was the primary agent of their destruction in a Nov. 4 win in D.C. The Wizards scored 31 in the opening quarter with just one three-pointer, shooting 60 percent and dominating inside with 16 points in the paint. LaMarcus Aldridge and David West looked helpless against the John Wall/Marcin Gortat pick-and-roll and Wall zoomed by Tony Parker at will. Gregg Popovich has kept Parker on opposing point guards for most of the season, but he switched things up midway through the period and Kawhi Leonard had the assignment against the ultra-speedy Wall for the rest of the night.
Pop has lauded Parker's defense (and deservedly so) for the past month, but it was easy to read between the lines in his post-game comments, where he observed that he and Manu Ginobili "were great at the offensive end of the court," to gather what he thought about their work in their own end.
The starting lineup was struggling to enter the ball into Aldridge in the post and weren't protecting the rim well at all, but energized by a quick 9-2 run from the bench. Neither Gortat nor former Spur DeJuan Blair had any idea what to do with Ginobili or Boris Diaw, and Blair's nightmare was just starting.
Beautiful play from Manu and Patty. pic.twitter.com/ytO2Au32w3— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) December 17, 2015
This is my favorite play since the Matt Bonner behind-the-back, spin hook. pic.twitter.com/c4QZltVhFX— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) December 17, 2015
As you can see, one Boban Marjanovic entered the fray much earlier than usual and quickly drew a couple of loose ball fouls against Blair, nearly a foot shorter. Ginobili rained down sexy death from all angles early in the second quarter before hitting the bench.
Has a Spur ever been as beloved by the fans while having played so few minutes? Boban is so fun. pic.twitter.com/RQrrweprlU— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) December 17, 2015
The 2015-16 Manu Ginobili is a fine vintage. pic.twitter.com/AmjFleRA6F— Chris Itz (@Chris_Itz1) December 17, 2015
The starters tightened up the defense a bit when they checked back in. The Wiz still scored 12 more points inside, but were 1-of-7 outside of the paint. Parker had six points and a couple of dimes in the quarter and five other Spurs scored four apiece. There was an amusing stretch late in the quarter where Pop was so exasperated with the defense of his shooting guards that he subbed from Danny Green to Ginobili (lost Kelly Oubre backdoor twice) to Jonathon Simmons (tried to draw a no-chance charge on Wall) to Kyle Anderson (shooting foul on Oubre) back to Ginobili all in a span of 1:44. All the freebies at the end of the half kept Washington in the game.
Then, in the third quarter, the hosts turned the vice, limiting Washington to just four points inside. Leonard started torturing Otto Porter and had 11 in the quarter and Green got going with a reverse layup and a three off a hustle offensive board. Parker had six helpers, a pair each to West and Green, and the starters were going so well that Pop played them collectively for the first 8:32 of the quarter, by which point they'd already scored 26 points and stretched the lead to 14. Ginobili fed Aldridge underneath and ended the quarter with a three for good measure and assured the fourth would be extended garbage time once again.
Pop was kind enough to let the crowd have some holiday fun in the quarter. Ginobili had four more dimes, including an alley-oop to Aldridge, and there was an extended run of Boban-mania. Both Parker (10) and Ginobili (8) had season-highs in assists and 19 of the Spurs 23 second-half field goals were assisted.
"We moved the ball pretty well," Ginobili confirmed afterward. "29 assists... the ball movement was there, it was a matter of just tightening up the defense and once we did that everything came along."
Big deal. Let's see them do it for 36 years.
Your Three Stars:
1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Manu Ginobili
3. Tony Parker
Up Next: Vs. Los Angeles Clippers (16-10)
The Clips started the season sluggishly, just .500 through their first 16 games, but they're 8-2 over the past ten, including a 103-90 home win Wednesday over the Bucks. The Spurs are a perfect 14-0 at home, but L.A. will be by far the best team they've faced at the AT&T Center thus far and it should be a good measuring stick type of game, especially with both teams healthy and on equal rest. As you're probably aware, these teams have some history. The Spurs officially have a franchise-record 23-game home winning streak going, dating back to last season, but really they lost their two final home games of the season to the Clips last year, first in Game 4, when they had a chance to put a 3-1 stranglehold on their first-round series, and then again in Game 6, when they had the opportunity to wrap it up. They ended up losing the series in a classic Game 7 in LA.
Oh, and if you just want to count the regular season, the Clippers were also the last team to beat the Spurs at home in regulation as well, pasting them 105-85 on Jan. 31. Good times.
Both Ginobili and Green hinted in their interviews that this next one won't be "just another game," and, well, there's a reason they sat Duncan ahead of it. Expect the Spurs to come out with a noticeable edge on Friday.