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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Washington Wizards

Can the Silver and Black snap their two-game skid when a lowly Eastern Conference opponent comes to town?

San Antonio Spurs v Washington Wizards Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Spurs dropped a close contest in crunch time against the Mavericks after overcoming an 18-point first-half deficit and an early ankle injury to starting point guard Dejounte Murray. Dallas led the game for all but a few minutes in the opening quarter as Luka Doncic continued his early bid for MVP with a masterful performance that saw him fall one rebound short of his sixth triple-double of the season.

LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan paced San Antonio with 26 and 29 points, respectively, and fellow vets Patty Mills and Rudy Gay came together for 29 points. Keldon Johnson added 17 points and a career-high 14 boards, though his commendable over-enthusiasm caused him to foul out in the closing moments of the final frame. And unfortunately, the rest of the roster struggled to get into the scoring column.

Popovich and company now have the perfect opportunity to pick up a much-needed victory to propel themselves above .500 as the 14th place Washington Wizards visit the AT&T Center. While the Silver and Black are only 2-5 at home through a little more than a fifth of their schedule, they won’t have many excuses for losing to a short-staffed organization with 80% of their starting and second units sidelined.

San Antonio Spurs (8-8) vs. Washington Wizards (3-8)

January 24, 2021 | 7:00 PM CST

Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Quinndary Weatherspoon (Questionable — Knee), Derrick White (Out — Toe), Dejounte Murray (Ankle — Day-to-Day)

Wizards Injuries: Thomas Byrant (Out — ACL), Russell Westbrook (Out — Quadriceps), Moritz Wagner (Out - COVID Protocols), Rui Hachimura (Out - COVID Protocols), Davis Bertans (Out - COVID Protocols), Deni Avdija (Out - COVID Protocols), Troy Brown Jr. (Out - COVID Protocols), Ish Smith (Out - COVID Protocols)

Rising Above their Competition

With notable wins against the Lakers and Clippers and demeaning losses to the Timberwolves and Rockets, San Antonio has shown a maddening tendency to mirror their competition. It’s a pleasant surprise when they defeat a title contender as the underdog, but dropping winnable games to shorthanded teams with lesser talent and cohesiveness could come back to bite them once the playoff race heats up near the end of the season.

The Wizards haven’t played a game in almost two weeks because of the health and safety protocols instated amid the ongoing pandemic, and the Spurs should be perfectly capable of dispatching an NBA bottom dweller. While Washington recently signed Alex Len and Jordan Bell to provide a little last-minute depth, the unfamiliarity of this group and the absence of four starters and as many bench players make those additions irrelevant.

With eight of the opposing rotational regulars on the shelf, San Antonio would be smart to put the Wizards away early before their misfit band of G-Leaguers and journeyman build the confidence to believe they have a shot to compete. That’s easier said than done, though it would be hugely disappointing for the Silver and Black to drop a home game to what might end up being decidedly the worst roster they’ll face all year long.

Stifling the Supporting Cast

Bradley Beal leads the league in points per game (34.9 PPG), and that’s mostly due to a combination of the hobbled Wizards having no other viable option to put the ball in the basket and his uncanny ability to score at will. Adverse circumstances have forced the two-time All-Star into the highest Usage Rate (36.5%) in the NBA, and the leading scorer among his available supporting cast is only putting up 8.9 points per game.

The ninth-year guard is an indispensable cog in the offense, yet his prolific scoring doesn’t impact results as much as you might initially assume. The Wizards beat the Nets despite a season-low 27 points from Beal yet lost to the Sixers after he poured in a career-high 60 points. It may come as a shock, but Washington is most successful when Beal gets teammates involved and are 3-2 when he dishes out at least five assists.

Although Scott Brooks doesn’t have much to work with, the Wizards have posted the sixth-highest efficiency from long distance (38.9%) thus far. And with six players shooting above 40% from three-point-land projected to suit up, San Antonio can’t afford to zero in on Bradley Beal at the expense of leaving the perimeter exposed. If the Spurs aren’t careful, this matchup has the potential to leave them on the wrong end of an upset.

For the opponents’ perspective, please visit Bullets Forever.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.