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Spurs overcome slow start and finish strong, edge the Wizards 107-105.

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The Spurs started off badly, but Manu Ginobili's competitive play kept the score much closer than it probably should have been. A late Kawhi Leonard jumper pushed the Spurs back above .500 at home.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

While the Spurs have ripped up the league on the road, it's been a different story at home. The effort from the Spurs has been lackadaisical at times in the AT&T Center, and at other times they've just played badly. One player whose effort level never seems to flag is Manu Ginobili. Tonight, he brought a lackluster team back from daunting deficits in the first and second quarters with improbable last second shots.

The Spurs were badly outplayed most of the first half, as Marcin Gortat played with energy and grit and grabbed what seemed like every rebound as nobody boxed him out.  John Wall broke down the Spurs defense with ease, and Bradley Beal knocked down several open threes.

The second half was better for the Silver and Black, as they held the Wizards to just 14 points in the third quarter. Washington fought back late behind John Wall's dominance in the paint, but Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills made key shots late, as did Danny Green, whose only made shot came at the time it was needed most.

Game Flow:

The start of the game was promising for the Spurs as Kawhi Leonard scored the first 5 points. San Antonio then settled into passive behavior that has been far too common this year, as the Wizards went on an 18-2 run to push the lead to 18-7 halfway through the quarter. Marcin Gortat easily snatched offensive rebounds and the Spurs didn't seem to have any answers. But the bench turned up the intensity and somehow, after Manu Ginobili hit a buzzer beater at the end of the quarter, the Spurs were only down by four, 28-24.

The second quarter was more of the same, as the Spurs gave free rein to Gortat and John Wall in the lane and Beal couldn't seem to miss. But again, despite being outplayed badly, the Spurs kept in it. The Wizards led 60-54 with just 3 seconds left when Kelly Oubre Jr. turned over the ball to Manu for a three point shot as time expired.

Somehow, improbably, the Spurs were down by just 3 points at the half, trailing 60-57. After playing so poorly for 24 minutes against a hot-shooting and hungry Wizards team, they were within a three-point basket.

The third quarter didn't start off all that well for the Silver and Black with Gortat and Markieff Morris scoring the first two baskets of the second half. The margin still wasn't out of reach – a Pau three and Nico Laprovittola steal led to a pair of free throws to cut the lead to within a basket. After an Aldridge post-up basket, the game was tied at 64.

But a series of Spurs miscues let the Wizards establish a 4 point lead. Once again, Manu came to the rescue, saving a possession with his incredible hustle. After a series of weird and ugly plays, the Spurs somehow tied it up at 71 each with four minutes left in the quarter.

The Spurs weren't done with sloppy play and turned the ball over again, leading to Wizard baskets. Luckily, one of the baskets was put just after time expired, and the Wizards led by just two points.

As they did in the first half, the Spurs ended the quarter strong, as Manu assisted David Lee to make the last shot of the quarter. Somehow, against all odds, the Spurs led 80-74 after three quarters.

David Lee scored the first basket of the fourth, but once again the turnover bug stung the Spurs leading to a four on none fast break at the other end.

The Spurs defense began to wake up, as Gasol knocked the ball free from Kieff and Jonathon Simmons streaked in to pick up the loose ball and was off to the races. A smart foul from Thornton stopped the break though, and the Spurs had to settle for a free throw after a referee review determined that there was no clear path foul. The Spurs surged to a 88-78 lead. But a 7-0 run from the Wizards with shots from Wall, Beal and Gortat cut the Spurs' lead to just three.

A basket from Kawhi followed by LaMarcus losing his man for an easy layup extended the lead to seven points. Wall answered, but the Spurs moved the ball the next time down the court leading to Kawhi Leonard driving the lane for a pretty Statue of Liberty dunk.

Wall's drives to the basket opened up the court for the Wizards and they went on a 6-0 lead to cut the lead to 96-95. Patty Mills hit a midrange jumper, and Kawhi beat a double team to put the Spurs up 100-95 on a stepback jumper. With just under three minutes left in the game, Wall penetrated the lane and passed the ball to Gortat for another easy layup. Otto Porter tied the game at 100 on a pair of free throws.

David Lee put the Spurs back up by two with a putback on a Mills miss, but the lead was short-lived, because Beal's three point answer put the Wizards up by one with just 53 seconds left. Patty tried to respond, but he missed a three point shot on the return. An Aldridge offensive rebound got it back for the Silver and Black. After a timeout, the Spurs moved the ball around the perimeter to a wide-open Danny Green who calmly sunk his first basket of the game, a long three to put the Spurs up 105-103 with 19 seconds left.

John Wall continued to do his thing for the Wizards and drove the basket and tied the score with 11 seconds left. Kawhi Leonard found himself open above the free throw line and hoisted up a 20 foot shot to put the Spurs up by a pair. But the Wizards had six seconds left to answer. Otto Porter somehow got free in the lane and had a good look at the basket, but he missed, and LaMarcus grabbed the rebound. The Wizards fouled him with just 0.3 seconds left. Aldridge intentionally missed the second free throw, and the clock expired before the Wizards could pick up the ball. Spurs win 107-105.

It was an exciting finish, and the great play at the end of the game almost made up for the atrocious play for most of the first half. Almost...

Observations:

  • Marcin Gortat had already scored a double double at halftime with 10 rebounds and 14 points – nobody boxed him out and he got what seemed like a dozen easy offensive rebounds and putbacks. He was good, but part of the problem was that none of the Spurs big men kept him out of the paint.
  • I don't know what a clear path foul is any more. The clear path foul committed by Nicolas Laprovittola on Beal in the first quarter looked exactly like the common foul committed by Marcus Thornton on Simmons in the fourth. Yeah, Simmons didn't have possession, but neither did Beal.
  • The Spurs were in the bonus barely two minutes into the fourth quarter, and free throws kept them in the game as they shot 15 more free throws in the game than the Wizards, Unfortunately, the Spurs had trouble taking advantage, as they shot only 63.6% from the line, with Gasol hitting 2-8.
  • The Spurs really don't move the ball well when Tony Parker is out of the lineup. He's been injured a good part of the season, and the team doesn't play cohesively without him. The only backup that does a great job running the offense is Manu, and he can't play enough minutes to carry the team with Tony out. I don't want to disrespect Nico, who did a credible job running the team, but he's a long way from Tony in being able to run the offense.
  • The Spurs played in their black jerseys tonight. They're undefeated in the black jerseys so far this year.

Music Break:

The way the Spurs are playing at home these days makes me want to get them on the road. And for that, you need a fast car.

Final thoughts:

The Spurs are now 16-4; they're in second place in the Western Conference, half a game behind the Warriors and half a game ahead of the Clippers. Their next game is Monday at 7:00 PM CST in Milwaukee against the Bucks, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is tearing up the league these days. Jason Kidd has his team playing well, and it's going to be another tough test for the Silver and Black as they fight to keep their road record unblemished.